AAPA and MARAD Secure 2.4 Million Masks for Ports, Maritime Operators

File image courtesy Port of New Orleans

Published Jun 1, 2020 7:27 PM by The Maritime Executive

Thanks to advocacy by the American Association of Port Authorities and the Maritime Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be delivering 2.4 million reusable cloth facial coverings to ports and related maritime transportation operations around the United States. 

The face masks are being distributed to about 400 maritime transportation entities nationwide for use by their essential personnel, including those working at seaports, inland ports, marine terminals, tug and barge lines, vessel pilot groups, dredging operations, supply chain logistics companies and others. The masks are part of FEMA's plan to keep essential businesses working while limiting the spread of COVID-19.

"As chair of the Department of Homeland Security’s Maritime Sector Coordination Council (MSCC) Task Force, which was formed to advise the federal government of maritime-sector needs, AAPA was successful in obtaining orders for the cloth masks in late May from FEMA on a tight weekend timeline,” said AAPA Government Relations Director Cary Davis. “For weeks prior to that, we worked with our maritime partners to aggressively advocate for an allocation for essential maritime transportation workers.”

The protective mask distribution effort supplements the ability for essential transportation-sector workers to obtain reusable cloth face coverings, since there are still difficulties in procuring them through the open market. The FEMA face mask orders address only the short-term needs for critical essential personnel, such as longshore labor and marine terminal stevedores, port security workers, drayage truck drivers and administrative workers.

“I’m proud that the Maritime Administration, FEMA, and U.S. maritime industry organizations are supporting the herculean efforts of those at sea and ashore who are keeping the supply chain moving by providing 2.4 million cloth face coverings to help protect these critical infrastructure workers and their families,” said MARAD Administrator Admiral Mark H. Buzby. “Our industry’s tradition of service to the Nation - ‘In War and Peace’ - is well-represented by the mariners, port operators, longshoremen, shipyard workers and many others who are keeping essential cargoes moving during this crisis.”

AAPA, together with trucking, railroad, natural gas and waterfront employer associations, has also signed onto a letter advocating for S. 3728, the Critical Infrastructure Employee Protection Act of 2020. Introduced by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the legislation would ensure the U.S. Department of Transportation gets the next allocation of personal protection equipment (PPE) for essential transport workers after priority is given to medical, healthcare, police and fire personnel. The maritime sector will be included as a PPE priority group if this bill passes.

“The health and safety of our workforce and the essential personnel on the front lines of the Port of New York and New Jersey, such as the longshoremen and truckers, is always our top priorityWe’re grateful for the assistance of FEMA and MARAD to help buoy our supply of face coverings for those workers so that we can continue safe operations at the port and ensure fluidity of the supply chain across the region.”