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Port Canaveral Sees Progress for Congressional Relief

ports hopeful to gain Congressional support for COVID-19 relief
Courtesy of Port Canaveral

By The Maritime Executive 08-04-2020 09:37:33

A week after announcing significant job cuts due to the impact of COVID-19 on its operations, Port Canaveral may be making progress in the effort it is leading to urging the U.S. Congress to provide emergency relief for America’s ports. The appeal has won initial support in Washington and might be incorporated into the current COVID-19 relief measures that are being negotiated.

As an example of how the major ports have been impacted, Port Canaveral’s fiscal 2020 budget had projected more than $118 million in revenues producing a more than $8.3 million profit. However, with nearly three-quarters of the port’s revenues related to the cruise industry, the port is instead projecting significant losses for the year ending September 30. According to the newspaper Florida Today, the port’s revised budget projects a loss of over $17 million for the year.

Due to the significant shortfall and with little hope of an imminent return of the cruise industry, Port Canaveral has begun reducing its workforce by more than 40 percent through layoffs, furloughs, and attrition. 

Port Canaveral had joined with the American Association of Port Authorities and 69 other U.S. ports urging the U.S. House, Senate, and Administration leadership to support the ports in their vital role. They highlighted both the seaports' vital role in supporting the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic by keeping fuel, food, and critical supplies moving as well the role the ports will play in the recovery.

“Ports are struggling to manage the impact this pandemic is having on our ability to continue our critical mission as gateways of commerce,” said Port CEO Captain John Murray. “Seaports, like airports, need emergency relief to maintain our state of readiness and to ensure we can sustain our role in the nation’s economic recovery.”

The efforts to win support for the ports appear to be gaining support in Congress. Port Canaveral officials told Florida Today that they are encouraged by the response to their calls. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to support America’s ports. Florida Today reports that Senator Marco Rubio from Florida is now working to broker a compromise to merge with the House’s efforts to provide relief for the ports.

The ports are hoping that they can win direct congressional aid to help cover the gap in lost revenues from the shutdowns and their impact on commerce as well as inclusion in the broader COVID-19 relief efforts being negotiated in Congress.  

The broader COVID-19 legislation, however, is reported to be moving slowing with an uncertain outcome. At this point, it is unclear if Port Canaveral and the other ports will be successful in win aid to address their financial shortfalls.