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Passengers watch from the deck as the Disney Wonder cruise ship departs the port of New Orleans in New Orleans, La. Friday, March 6, 2020.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation’s ports have ensured that shelves remain stocked and that commerce continues to flow. Americans have been able to practice social isolation in large part due to the continued functioning of our nation’s supply chains — in which ports play a critical role.

As Congress works to help airports, transit systems and other transportation services impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, the Port of New Orleans and the American Association of Port Authorities believe it is crucial that seaports also get the resources necessary to manage the extraordinary challenges posed by this crisis.

COVID relief bills passed by Congress to date have not made public port authorities eligible for federal relief funds. Immediate steps must be taken to ensure our nation’s ports have the resources needed to manage the unprecedented financial, personnel, infrastructure and supply challenges imposed by this crisis.

AAPA is requesting that Congress include economic relief for public ports in future COVID relief legislation. These funds would enable ports to maintain workforces, withstand lost revenue and economic shocks, and manage increased costs of operation due to the coronavirus.

Our nation’s ports have been significantly impacted by the economic downturn resulting from this pandemic. Meanwhile, the port tourism industry, namely the cruise industry, has completely shuttered. Ports are beginning to see furloughs and layoffs in the maritime industry and supply chain. It is estimated that a 20% reduction in cargo could result in the direct loss of 130,000 jobs.

Ports are economic engines of their communities and will be key in getting the U.S. economy back on track, a fact true for ports of all sizes across the United States.

In 2018, cargo activities at America’s seaports generated $5.4 trillion, and those revenues created $378 billion in federal, state and local taxes. Additionally, America’s tourism ports attracted 13 million international passengers, whose spending created $53 billion in revenue nationwide.

Port NOLA is a major economic catalyst for our city, state and region, generating $4.9 billion in annual output and driving 21,700 jobs at every skill level statewide.

To aid this vital industry’s coronavirus response and recovery efforts, AAPA and Port NOLA are urging Congress to provide $1.5 billion in direct grants to help U.S. ports cover operations, equipment and infrastructure costs, and debt service.

This isn’t about replacing lost revenue. It’s about maintaining a state of readiness to make good on bond and other debt payments, and keeping our workforce employed to the fullest extent possible.

Please support our request to Congress for modest relief from the shocks imposed by this crisis, so America’s ports can continue to drive the economy and be poised play a critical role in the national recovery.

BRANDY D. CHRISTIAN

president and CEO, Port of New Orleans

New Orleans

CHRISTOPHER J. CONNOR

president and CEO, American Association of Port Authorities

Alexandria, VA