Maritime Industry Asks Congress for Bailout During Coronavirus

June 1, 2020 by Tom Ramstack
A tug boat guides a container ship toward the Atlantic Ocean near Charleston, S.C. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – Representatives of the U.S. maritime industry asked Congress for an emergency bailout Friday as they described how coronavirus is hurting ports and shippers.

They are expecting their revenue to drop by as much as one-quarter below normal levels by mid-2020.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, called the financial threat to maritime ports and shippers “a pretty grim picture.”

“We have to take action,” DeFazio said during a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

He added, “This is a critical part of America’s supply chain.”

About $4.6 trillion of trade flows through the U.S. maritime system per year, according to U.S. government estimates.

Republicans on the committee, such as Rep. Robert Gibbs of Ohio, described the coronavirus pandemic as only one of several threats to the viability of ports. Infrastructure shortcomings and cyber-threats are other “new challenges” he mentioned.

Congress is considering another round of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act. The original $2 trillion bill approved in March included $500 billion in direct payments to Americans, $208 billion in loans to major industry and $300 billion in Small Business Administration loans.

The maritime industry is asking for $1.5 billion of any new CARES Act funds to shore up its losses while part of the U.S. economy has shut down in response to the pandemic.

“For ports, as for other industries, the future remains uncertain,” Christopher J. Connor, president of the American Association of Port Authorities, told the congressional committee.

Cruise lines are among the hardest hit by the downturn as vacationing passengers avoid the risk of contamination, Connor said.

“Tourism at our nation’s ports has completely evaporated,” he testified. “Indications are that certain South Atlantic seaports’ overall business is down between 50% to 80%.”

Shipments of oil, chemicals, coal and products shipped in containers also are down, Connor said.

“As automobiles have worked their way through the global supply chain following the shuttering of auto production facilities in the Americas, Europe, and Asia, we have seen major reductions in roll-on, roll-off cargos,” he said. “One west coast port has experienced a 90% reduction.”

Without government assistance, ports might be unable to help with economic recovery from the pandemic as they fail to keep up with their debt, Connor said.

“This request is not about recovering lost revenue,” he said.

Other warnings came from Jennifer Carpenter, president of the American Waterways Operators.

A failure to ensure the U.S. maritime remains financially strong is opening an opportunity for foreign competitors to take over their business, she said. Some of the toughest competition is coming from China.

“We need to ensure that our waterways are open for business,” she said.

She urged Congress to continue its support for the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act. The federal statute regulates maritime commerce in a way intended to promote the U.S. merchant marine service.

Rep. Sean Maloney, a New York Democrat, said the U.S. maritime industry has always been fragile as it faces challenges from security, foreign competition and infrastructure.

“The pandemic only amplifies that risk,” he said.

In The News

Health

Voting

Trade

Subcommittee Assignments Give Murphy Strong Voice on National Security, COVID-19 Relief, and Trade
Congress
Subcommittee Assignments Give Murphy Strong Voice on National Security, COVID-19 Relief, and Trade
February 9, 2021
by TWN Staff

WASHINGTON - Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., has been named to four subcommittees that will ensure she's a leading voice on national security, the continuing federal response to COVID-19, and international trade. The Winter Park Democrat is the only Florida Democrat who currently serves on either the... Read More

Trade Rep Designee Says Cooperation, Bipartisanship Key to Competing with China
Trade
Trade Rep Designee Says Cooperation, Bipartisanship Key to Competing with China
January 12, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - Katherine Tai, President-elect Joe Biden's designee to be the next U.S. trade representative, told a virtual gathering of trade professionals Tuesday that if the U.S. is going to successfully compete against China on the world stage, it's going to take a renewed sense of... Read More

UK Warns of 'Bumpy' Post-Brexit Transition Despite Deal
Brexit
UK Warns of 'Bumpy' Post-Brexit Transition Despite Deal

LONDON (AP) — First came the Brexit trade deal. Now comes the red tape and the institutional nitty gritty. Four days after sealing a free trade agreement with the European Union, the British government warned businesses to get ready for disruptions and “bumpy moments” when the... Read More

Senate Debates Tactics to Make America More Competitive with China
Trade
Senate Debates Tactics to Make America More Competitive with China
December 17, 2020
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate continued a hardline crackdown on China Wednesday during a hearing on how to ratchet up American economic competitiveness. Economic advisors repeated warnings that the U.S. government needs to create more incentives for domestic industries that are lagging behind Chinese competitors. Otherwise,... Read More

Facebook Sued by US, States in Antitrust Case
Business
Facebook Sued by US, States in Antitrust Case

WASHINGTON — Facebook Inc. was sued by U.S. antitrust officials and a coalition of states that want to break up the company by unwinding its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, deals the government says was part of a campaign to illegally crush competition. The Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general led by New York said... Read More

Ways and Means Aide Katherine Tai Said to be Biden's Choice for Trade Representative
Trade
Ways and Means Aide Katherine Tai Said to be Biden's Choice for Trade Representative

WASHINGTON — Katherine Tai, chief trade counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee, is reported to be President-elect Joe Biden's nominee to be America's trade negotiator. Tai would lead the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, an agency she knows well from her committee work as well as from the seven... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top