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Letter of Commissioners Maffei and Bentzel to Great Lakes Governors

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Last week, Commissioners Maffei and Bentzel sent letters to the Governors of Great Lakes states urging them to prioritize the vaccination of the maritime workforce to protect the Nation’s supply chain in preparation for the upcoming start to the Great Lakes shipping season when the Soo Locks open on March 25th.

Letters were sent to the Governors of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The text of the letter is below, and a copy of the Commissioners’ earlier letter to the Biden administration was also enclosed with the letter.

The maritime workforce is crucial to the fluidity of the supply chain, and with current industry conditions as congested as they are, the effects of a widespread COVID-19 outbreak in one of our Nation’s ports would be devastating.

Text of the letter:

Earlier this year, we wrote to President Biden and members of his administration encouraging the prioritization of maritime workers for access to vaccinations, personal protective equipment (PPE), and rapid testing (see enclosure). Because we continue to hear that access is insufficient, we write to you today to emphasize the importance of this issue. We are sending similar letters to Governors in the other Great Lakes states.  

A large-scale workforce disruption from COVID-19 would be disastrous for the immediate and long-term fluidity of the supply chain and delivery of goods to Americans. We must address the immediate health challenges facing maritime workers with continued COVID-19 outbreaks and their impact on the increasing maritime workload and unprecedented volume surges. 

The Great Lakes region faces a unique challenge because of the seasonality of its shipping season. When the Soo Locks open later this month, maritime workers will report for duty from different parts of the country, and some may not yet be vaccinated. Once they embark on their vessels, it may be very challenging for them to get vaccinations. We ask you to consider these circumstances and maximize the availability of vaccines for maritime workers reporting for duty.

The sacrifices, resilience, and selflessness of those who work in the maritime industry have kept our supply chain functioning and our economy connected and will serve as a foundation as we look to recover as a country in 2021. For this to happen, we must provide immediate vaccination to the maritime workforce.   

We are grateful for your attention to this important issue.   

Daniel B. Maffei and Carl W. Bentzel are Commissioners with the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission. The thoughts and comments expressed here are their own and do not necessarily represent the position of the Commission.