In the commercial shipping realm, one of the major disappointments (dare I say “scandal?”) tied to the COVID-19 pandemic has been the difficulties in the movement of seafarers, brought on by a maze of travel restrictions and bureaucratic impediments, writes Barry Parker,
One lesson that has emerged is that the ship-owning industry, which has run to far-flung places to set up companies and/ or register ships, has not been effective in making its case in front of political decision makers.
Happily, the port business has generally been vocal in making its case known, through well run organizations with a strong presence in the halls of governments, whether at a national level (the American Association of Port Authorities comes to mind) or regional configurations (American Great Lakes Ports Association (AAPA) is top of my mind here).
During 2020, where events have been “unprecedented” on many levels, initial responses to virus matters were inconsistent; the debate between local versus centralised authority is nuanced and complex, so let’s just leave out the judgements and say that ports have become much better organised – and credit is due to associations that bring them together.
For results, look no further than the legislative agenda on Capitol Hill. At the Federal level, in a refreshing burst of bi partisanship, the House and the Senate are now both working on versions on what is essentially emergency relief for ports facing unanticipated (and maybe unprecedented) expenses in responding to an emergency (or a natural disaster.
The relief, in the form of grants that would be administered by the Maritime Administration (part of the U.S. Department of Transportation), would cover a wide swath of costs, ranging from sanitising and cleanup, though financial components such as debt service, and also human resources costs tied to retaining the workforce if business activity shuts down. A press release from the AAPA concludes a list of items with the wording “….and other essential needs.”
Early on, like in March and April, the word “essential” was way overused, but in our context, ports are indeed essential, and the folks who work around the ports are also essential.
Longtime readers will note that I do not dispense kudos or compliments easily; however, our business should be commended all around for the great job that it’s doing. Unlike the vessels that call at our ports (where “visibility” outside of the terminal gate is an uncomfortable concept), the ports have been able to get in front of government and stress the importance, and, indeed, criticality, of ports in the broader maritime transportation system.
Source: Port Strategy (https://www.portstrategy.com/news101/insight-and-opinion/the-new-yorker/stressing-the-importance)