The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the maritime industry. Since March, the Port of Palm Beach has experienced a 20% decrease in container volume. This is due to the demand for food declining as a result of cruise lines suspending their operations and a lack of tourists in the Caribbean.
The Florida Ports Council recently sent an letter to members of Congress urging relief to the maritime sector based on new economic impact analysis conducted by an maritime research company called Martin Associates. The 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 almost $23 billion.
"Florida’s seaports are one of the state’s greatest economic assets, positively affecting every region and every resident. In fact, the Port of Palm Beach provides approximately 2,400 direct and indirect jobs, which contribute $260 million in business revenue and $12 million in state and federal tax revenues annually," said Doug Wheeler, President and CEO pf the Florida Ports Council. .
Wheeler 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.
“Whether moving over a hundred million tons of cargo annually or millions of cruise passengers, Florida’s seaports generate and support a vast array of commerce and are the international gateways for goods shipped in and out of the state,” Wheeler said. “We urge Congress to pass legislation to provide the maritime sector the same relief that has been offered to other industries during COVID-19, and to close the gap in current federal emergency assistance that has left critical links in the maritime supply chain isolated, impacting Florida jobs and the state-wide economy.”