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Statement of Commissioner Sola Regarding the Impacts of the Coronavirus on the Maritime Industry

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The coronavirus is having a substantial impact on the maritime industry.  But just as we all must work to contain the spread of the virus, we also must work to limit its rippling impact on our supply chains.

Blank sailings due to the closure of Chinese factories have resulted in rate adjustments as well as an impact on equipment availability in our seaports and in the heartland.  Marine terminal operators have also been making adjustments to their port practices and schedules as they work to accommodate fluctuations in cargo volumes.

While containing the virus remains the number one priority, we stand ready to assist all of our stakeholders as we work through these challenging times.  At the FMC, we are continuing to monitor the impact of the coronavirus on the industry and will do everything we can to ensure the continuity of a reliable supply chain and to protect the public from unfair and deceptive practices.

The Harbor Trucking Association recently identified difficulties it was having in picking up and returning equipment at some terminals.   It is my sincere hope that ocean carriers and marine terminal operators are able to work collaboratively, and fairly, with both their customers and the harbor truckers.   I am hopeful that the final interpretive rule on detention and demurrage, will provide additional guidance to the industry on how best to handle these situations.

The Cruise industry has also been devastated by the spread of the coronavirus.  Once again, the safety of the passengers and containment of the virus is paramount.  Cruise operators have been taking the responsible steps of cancelling voyages and refunding fares where appropriate.  Our office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services is available to facilitate this process when needed.

Although we find ourselves in uncharted territory, we all must work together to contain the coronavirus and to mitigate its impacts on our daily lives.  My home state of Florida has been affected as much or more than anywhere else. I would like to give my support to the efforts of Senator Cotton and others who called for a thorough investigation of the origins of the worst disruption to U.S. trade.

The maritime supply chains and distribution networks are a vital link to restoring normalcy during these difficult times.  I remain confident that our industry can pull together to continue serving the needs of the American people.

Louis E. Sola is a Commissioner with the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission. The thoughts and comments expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent the position of the Commission.