Groups representing US ports — both landlord and operating ports — marine terminal operators, and stevedores, tell JOC.com they hoped-for federal aid via grants and loans would ensure their members can keep the nation’s containerized supply chains flowing. The scale of federal help the industry needs isn’t yet clear, but proposals for a seaport grant program up to $1.5 billion and another $400 million for personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies give a sense of the damage that has been inflicted and is still expected.
The impact of COVID-19 is pulling down cargo volumes by double-digit percentage rates, making it difficult for marine terminals to meet lease requirements while they have to spend extra money on cleaning supplies and PPE to keep workers safe. Marine terminals will have a hard time meeting minimum cargo volume commitments via leases with landlord port authorities, while those ports with an operator model will suffer the loss in volume revenue more directly.
Marine terminal operators need help managing these challenges not only from port authorities, but also from the federal government, two members of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), told Congress. They noted that existing federal programs limit or shut off marine terminals entirely from tapping federal programs.
PPE grant request coming
Marine terminals and waterfront employers will ask Congress this week to create a one-time, $400 million grant program to help pay for cleaning supplies and PPE equipment, including plexiglass between truck gate operators and drayage drivers. The size of marine terminal operators and stevedores prevent most from accessing Small Business Loans, and while they serve the public good, their status as private companies excludes them from other federal COVID-19 aid programs. The grant would help its members maintain their workforces and weather financial shocks as ports face a loss in volume.