Members of the maritime sector testified before the House of Representatives in a last-ditch attempt to secure COVID-19 relief funding for the industry.
By Michael McGrady, Maritime Direct Americas Correspondent
WASHINGTON — Representatives for the US maritime sector testified before the House of Representatives on February 9 in an attempt to secure pandemic relief funding for the complex industry operating on inland and coastal waterways.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic lingers and an unprecedented period of economic recovery is required, many in the industry feel that Congress should take the necessary steps to minimize the potential for significant disruptions in the maritime industry supply chain.
The global maritime industry makes 90 percent of the world’s trade is transported by sea.
For the domestic sector, seagoing transportation is a crucial component of national security and the domestic economy’s stability.
With the ongoing pandemic, the operational interruptions to this economic segment could have terrible implications.
“In the year since the virus was first detected in the United States, the maritime industry has endured significant hardships and has experienced substantial impacts to business,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Or., chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, in statements for the first hearing of the subcommittee dealing with the Coast Guard and maritime transportation.
He added that “it is critical that we understand the impacts and implications moving forward as we shape recovery actions and future responses to national emergencies.”
The subcommittee chair, Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Ca., provided similar remarks in prepared comments, speaking more technically about what the maritime industry needs to survive during the pandemic.
“One way to provide immediate assistance is by funding the Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief program that was passed into law last Congress under the leadership of Chairman DeFazio,” Carbajal said. “For the first time, it created a program within the Maritime Administration to provide financial assistance to the maritime industry in times of national emergency.
“We need to utilize this program and provide funding to protect American maritime jobs and assist operators struggling to stay afloat,” Carbajal added.
Members of the industry also testified before the committee, expressing their collective concern for the pandemic sector.
“The domestic maritime industry remains resilient but needs your support to continue to navigate the challenges of keeping mariners healthy and vessels in service,” said Del Wilkins, president of Illinois Marine Towing, in prepared testimony.
Other people who testified before the subcommittee include Michael G. Roberts, the senior vice president of Crowley Maritime, on behalf of the American Maritime Partnership.
“Ports are backed up due to a surge of imports, but also a lack of workers due to COVID-19 infections,” said Roberts. “The most important solution to these threats is to prioritize mariners for the COVID-19 vaccination and, in the interim, ensure that mariners have access to rapid testing.”