Statement of Commissioner Bentzel on Maritime Shipping and Coronavirus Impacts

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Posted March 13, 2020

The maritime industry has been deeply affected as a result of the upheaval caused by the coronavirus and its impacts to Chinese manufacturing and logistics services. Ocean carriers have been forced to cancel services (“blanked sailings”) to and from China and the United States. The Federal Maritime Commission has been monitoring levels of blanked sailings and conferring with ocean carrier representatives about levels of service and the potential resumption of normal trade. News reports have indicated that U.S. retailers are running low on imported goods, that U.S. manufacturers — such as the automobile manufacturing industry — are suffering depletion of imported component parts necessary for production, and that U.S. exporters are finding logistical challenges exporting U.S. agricultural commodities.

Information provided from shipping lines involved in the trans-Pacific trades indicate that cargo levels and services are resuming to pre-coronavirus levels. It should be expected that coronavirus impacts will linger over the next few weeks while vessels are engaged in the cross-Pacific transit, and hopefully we are poised to achieve normalcy in the transport of goods. To be clear, there may still be logistical challenges in processing cargoes into United States commerce.

His statement follows:

“I was heartened to hear that shipping lines have indicated that there is cargo for pickup and that trucking and port operations have substantially resumed in China. I remain concerned that there will continue to be negative economic impacts as a result of delays, as shipments transit the Pacific from China. I would hope that the industry resists the temptation to take actions to price gouge or otherwise unfairly leverage their position.

It will be necessary for all segments of the transportation industry from the marine terminals to trucking and rail services to help pitch in to secure normalcy. Our ability to recover from this economic disruption through the resumption of maritime commerce underscores the criticality and importance of our maritime trade. Hopefully the resumption of this service can allow our nation to recover as rapidly as possible.”

Carl W. Bentzel 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.