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Commissioner Sola Provides Briefing on Fact Finding 30 to Senior DoT Official

COVID-19 related impacts on ocean shipping and the cruise industry were discussed Wednesday in a conference call that brought together two Commissioners of the Federal Maritime Commission, a senior official from the Department of Transportation, and representatives of sectors affected by the pandemic’s consequences.

Commissioner Louis E. Sola invited the Department of Transportation’s Acting Under Secretary for Policy Joel Szabat to hear directly from individuals that work in or in support of the passenger cruise industry about how COVID-19 has impacted operations and livelihoods. Among those participating were government officials, port directors, harbor pilots, members of organized labor, transportation service providers, leaders from the hospitality industry, and chief executive officers and other C-suite level executives from airlines, shipping lines, and cruise operators.

The primary emphasis of the call’s agenda was impacts to the extended domestic economy of the passenger cruise industry, which Commissioner Sola is examining as part of his Fact Finding 30 investigation. In addition, Commissioner Rebecca Dye provided an update on her work on Fact Finding 29 examining impacts to the maritime supply chain.

“Just as it is easy to fail to appreciate the importance of container shipping to the Nation’s economy, it is easy to overlook how vitally important the passenger cruise industry is to ports, cities, and states. There are people and industries physically far removed from idled cruise vessels who depend on that industry for their livelihood. Hotels, airlines, taxi companies, longshore labor, caterers, farmers, and linen companies are just some immediate examples,” said Commissioner Sola.

In addition to providing an update to the Department of Transportation on their work and what their investigations are revealing, both Commissioners Dye and Sola are interested in exploring where there are opportunities for cooperation and synergy between the FMC and DoT in responding to COVID-19 and in preparing port operations for surges in business and increased cargo flows.

“There is no question that increased cargo volumes are coming. This is the time to prepare for those shipments. There are substantive steps that can be taken that will improve efficiency and performance at our Nation’s busiest ports and I was pleased to be able to outline to the Under Secretary what actions ocean carriers in particular should be taking. We look forward to working closely with the Under Secretary in the future,” said Commissioner Dye.