Florida Ports Council Releases Data as it Calls for COVID-19 Aid

Florida Ports Council calls for aid to the ports due to economic impact of COVID-19
Miami's container operations have to support the port due to the loss of passenger revenues - file photo

Published Aug 13, 2020 7:56 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Florida Ports Council released an economic analysis of COVID-19’s impacts on Florida seaports as it called for government aid to assist the state’s ports. Citing data from maritime research company Martin Associates, the council pointed out that in addition to the impact from the loss of the cruise industry ports across the state were also experiencing decreases in liquid bulk, dry bulk, and containerized cargo.

The council estimates that almost $23 billion in economic activity is being lost across the state of Florida as it continues its effort to control the virus. They estimate that in a typical year Florida’s ports generate as much as 13 percent of the state’s GDP.

In addition to the direct revenue the ports receive from cargo traffic, most of Florida ports earn revenue from the cruise ships and their passenger traffic. With the cruise industry having been suspended since mid-March, the council estimates that the Florida ports will lose five million passengers and the associated revenues in 2020. The loss of the passengers also impacts the lodging and hospitality industries as well as the retail and tourism-related businesses.

The survey data Martin Associates prepared for the council from Florida ports illustrates the anticipated downturn in cargo operations. They project the loss of 5.6 million tons of liquid bulk cargo, 1.6 million tons of dry bulk cargo, and 522,592 TEUs of containerized cargo.

As a result of the lost economic activity, the Florida Ports Council says that nearly 169,000 Florida jobs will be lost, with more than 15,500 coming directly from people who work in the ports. Job losses it says include those directly supporting cruise and cargo activity at Florida ports, as well as those lost as a result of the disruption to the supply chain and the maritime transportation system.

Today, for example, the Tampa Bay Business Journal is reporting that a local fuel supplier, that serviced the cruise industry, as well as school buses, was forced to file for bankruptcy.

Separately, many of Florida’s ports have already reported that they were being forced to reduce their budgets, lower expenses and draw on reserves during this period. Port Canaveral for example two weeks ago announces it was reducing its workforce by nearly 40 percent. Other ports such as Miami which receive extensive revenues from the cruise industry have sought to work with the cruise lines waving fees for the lay-up cruise ships while depending on the cargo portions of their ports to generate revenues.

“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,” Doug Wheeler, president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council. “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.”

The Florida Ports Council joined with many of the individual ports that have been lobbying the government to assist the maritime sector as part of the new economic aid packages that have been proposed. The council highlighted that that no funding has been provided to date in COVID-19 relief packages to assist the maritime industry. Wheeler said in his letter to Congress that funding is needed for emergency response, cleaning, staffing, workforce retention, paid leave, procurement of protective health equipment, debt service payments, and lost revenue.