Ports want Congress to consider them for next round of relief
The American Association of Port Authorities says while some ports fared well in 2020, that isn’t universally true.
Many have really been hammered by COVID-19, and the AAPA has been lobbying for funding in the second set of federal aid being debated in Congress to help its members deal with the extra costs of protecting port workers.
“Like we always say in the port industry, if you have seen one port, you have seen one port,” Evan Chapman, AAPA’s director of government relations. “It is really looking true with the coronavirus. Some ports are seeing banner months, but others who are involved in bulk cargo or the cruise ship industry have been significantly impacted.”
Most of the nation’s 361 ports are not container ports, but rather are bulk handling ports; and almost every container port has a bulk port in the portfolio that is dragging things down, said Aaron Ellis, public affairs director.
“The Port of Houston is the largest port in the country. It is even larger than the Port of Los Angeles in terms of volume. And it doesn’t handle containers,” Ellis said.
Container ports like the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are faring better than bulk ports because people “have been sitting at home, working away and ordering things online, so the container ports have moved a lot of consumer goods.”
Grain, cement, fertilizer and fuel, shipped through bulk ports, have not seen the same kind of demand during the pandemic, Ellis said.
“All of the demand is for consumer goods right now, but there is also a high cost of handling that freight right now, because people have to be properly masked up and wearing personal protection equipment,” Ellis said. “There is a great deal of cost associated with handling all of this cargo, and unless the port is experiencing high demand, the additional cost of dealing with COVID-19 can be overwhelming.”
There has been no dedicated relief for port authorities in any of the relief packages, Chapman said.
“While many private entities get tax credits to recoup costs, the ports as public entities didn’t get anything,” Chapman said. “The airports received relief money to deal with the pandemic, but the ports have not received similar funding from the government.”
The prospects for the nation’s ports are tied to the larger COVID-19 relief package being discussed in Congress, Ellis said.
AAPA has also been lobbying for the National Defense Authorization Act that would create a maritime administration to provide relief to the ports in similar ways that national agencies provide direct relief and grants to transportation and airports, Ellis said.