By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor ·
February 4, 2021
Leadership at the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) recently penned a letter to President Joseph Biden, making the case for widescale COVID-19 vaccinations for the United States maritime workforce as soon as possible.
The letter, which was written by FMC Commissioners Carl Bentzel and Daniel Maffei, was also sent to leadership for various Senate and House committees and federal agencies—including the Senate Commerce Committee, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, White House COVID-19 Response Team, and the White House Vaccinations Coordinator.
The letter did not mince words in laying out the case for the “urgent issue” of vaccinating the U.S. maritime workforce.
“We recommend that this essential workforce be prioritized for vaccinations, and in the interim be given access to rapid testing in order to help minimize workplace disruption, given their critical role in moving medical supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), and handling what is an unprecedented amount of consumer goods arriving at our gateway ports,” wrote FMC leadership. “While we recognize that prioritization for vaccination will be determined by the individual states, we believe that the Administration should emphasize the need to keep the supply chain transportation workforce in mind as each state deploys rapid COVID-19 testing and implements the vaccination process.”
What’s more, they pointed to clear and specific data in bolstering their case, including:
the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) has reported 784 positive tests with 1,855 quarantines from March 2020 to January 25, 2021; and
the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) reported that 1,034 maritime workers contracted COVID-19 in California, Washington, and Oregon, for the same period
“These numbers continue to trend upward and show the risk to our Nation’s supply chain,” they wrote.
That is a key viewpoint that simply cannot be ignored, given the ongoing challenges that COVID-19 continues to present across myriad aspects of the freight transportation, supply chain, and logistics sectors.
And taking that a step further, the letter also explained that should a large-scale COVID-19 maritime workforce disruption occur, “it would be disastrous for the immediate and long-term fluidity of the supply chain and delivery of goods to Americans,” adding that “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.”
This is a major issue that really cannot be overlooked, if we all expect the supply chain to keep running and operating as effectively as it can, given the multitude of challenges that the pandemic keeps presenting. Import levels hit record numbers to end 2020 and January activity was strong, too. Just because seasonal trends will likely kick in and result in lower import levels, is by no means a panacea of sorts. The White House would be wise to take the FMC’s guidance to heart and get U.S. maritime workers their needed vaccinations.
February 4, 2021
About the Author
Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman
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