COVID challenges has caused water-born trade to lose $200 billion
U.S. ag exports rely on maritime shipping to send their products around the world. Port workers recently told Congress about the added difficulties created by the pandemic.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee holds a hearing to determine the state of maritime shipping.
Mario Cordero, Chairman of the American Association of Port Authorities, describes the challenges caused by the pandemic.
According to Cordero, “The COVID-19 pandemic caused 2020 to be one of the most erratic and volatile years, in terms of container volumes. By the end of the year, total water-born trade was down 4.8 percent compared to the prior year and the value of trade dropped 11.3 percent, nearly $200 billion dollars.”
Despite the challenges, the industry was not granted any specific relief in previous congressional aid packages. Cordero says that support is needed to keep shipments moving.
“First, we need assistance to prioritize vaccinations and provide more testing for port workers and other transportation system personnel,” he states. “Two, we need Congress to fund the Maritime Transportation Emergency Relief Program that helps mitigate COVID-19 impacts and protects workers.”
Ohio Republican Bob Gibbs questioned the panel about the container shortage affecting ag exporters.
Cordero says that the port of southern California is working to address the issue.
“That has caused a shortage of empties. Now, that issue has been mitigated since the end of last year in regards to extra loaders being sent specifically with regard to the empty issue,” he adds.
He says that an area of common ground for the various maritime and waterway sectors is a need to upgrade infrastructure: “More importantly to upgrade the connectivity, for example inland ports, so the American exporter particularly the American farmer has a competitive opportunity to the largest market in the world, which is Asia.”
Subcommittee Chairman, Salud Carbajal also said that the Maritime Administration is set to testify next month on its budget requests for the new fiscal year.