Today, the Florida Ports Council sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy urging relief for the maritime sector based on a new economic impact analysis. Doug Wheeler, President and CEO of the Florida Ports Council, noted in the letter that no funding has been provided to date in COVID-19 relief packages to assist the maritime industry. Funding is needed for emergency response, cleaning, staffing, workforce retention, paid leave, procurement of protective health equipment, debt service payments, and lost revenue.
Florida seaports are one of the state’s greatest economic assets, positively affecting every region and every resident. Whether moving over a hundred million tons of cargo annually or millions of U.S. and international cruise passengers, Florida’s seaports generate and support a vast array of commerce. These seaports are the gateway for shipment of goods into and out of Florida, and link our state to vital international markets. Prior to this pandemic, our seaports had a $117.6 billion economic impact on the state and accounted for more than 900,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Based on an analysis conducted by Martin Associates, an internationally recognized leading economic and transportation economic analysis firm, it is estimated that the nearly 169,000 jobs supported by port activity around the state could be lost through 2020. A survey and review of cargo and passenger activity at Florida’s seaports indicated that COVID-19 will likely result in the loss of 5.6 million tons of liquid bulk cargo, 1.6 million tons of dry bulk cargo, and a loss of 4.9 million passengers at our seaports. The loss in total economic activity in the state of Florida resulting from the loss of cargo and cruise activity at Florida seaports is estimated at more than $22 billion.
To date, no funding has been provided in any of the previous COVID-19 relief packages to assist ports and the maritime transportation system. We recommend that not less than $1.5 billion be made available to U.S. seaports, and not less than $2 billion for other eligible maritime business involved in the essential operation of this nation’s maritime transportation system. Such funds could be used for emergency response, cleaning, staffing, workforce retention, paid leave, procurement of protective health equipment, debt service payments, and lost revenue. These vital emergency relief funds will close a huge gap in current federal emergency assistance that has left critical links in the maritime supply chain isolated.
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