Coronavirus slashing US port volumes

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) said cargo volumes at U.S. ports in the first quarter could be down by 20% or more from 2019 levels because of the supply chain disruption caused by the coronavirus.

AAPA said U.S. ports “are closely following instructions and protocols from appropriate federal agencies to quickly respond to the coronavirus threat.”

“For seaborne trade and travel, it’s both a blessing and a curse that there’s a two-week latency period for coronavirus symptoms. The lag time gives our ports, Coast Guard, Customs agents and health officials time to prepare for screening and, if needed, quarantine or rerouting of crew members or travelers thought to be infected,” AAPA said.

Chris Connor, AAPA president and CEO, added, “Things will rebound eventually and indeed we’re hearing news about factories that are coming back online in China and ports there ramping back up to move the cargo. At the same time, supply chain managers around the world are working tirelessly to keep cargo moving to ensure that the goods we need are available when and where we need them.”

In the United States, six people had died from the coronavirus in Washington state as of Monday afternoon. Worldwide more than 3,000 people have died.

The U.S. Coast Guard in early February issued a Marine Safety Bulletin that stated in part that vessels with crew members who had been to mainland China within the previous 14 days, with no sick crew members, would be permitted to enter and conduct normal operations, but crew members would be required to remain onboard with very limited exceptions. If a crew member who had been to mainland China within the previous 14 days was brought on board a vessel in transit to the United States, the master was required to immediately notify the Coast Guard.

Some AAPA members were expected to attend this week’s Trans-Pacific Maritime conference in Long Beach, California. That conference, which was to begin Sunday and continue through Wednesday, was canceled by the organizer, the Journal of Commerce, on Saturday.

“This decision was made following recent guidance from health officials and in light of the rapid growth in global cases of Covid-19, in particular in the western United States over the past 24 hours, as well as increasing travel restrictions and other circumstances,” IHS Markit, the parent company of the Journal of Commerce, said in a statement.