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Florida Economy Takes $23 Billion COVID Hit From Empty Cruise Ships, Ports

PortandTerminal.com, August 11, 2020

“There is no American COVID-19 economic recovery without strong American ports”

MIAMI – Tourism, which has long been one of the key drivers of Florida’s economy, has taken a massive hit during the coronavirus pandemic. As PortandTerminal.com has reported frequently over the past months, the cruise industry has been hit particularly hard.

The Florida Ports Council says the loss of cruises, along with a slowdown in cargo traffic, has led to the loss of an estimated 169,000 jobs in Florida and a $23 billion hit to Florida’s economy.

Decreased liquid bulk, dry bulk and containerized cargo and nearly five million fewer cruise passengers at Florida seaports is expected through 2020, according to a new analysis by the maritime research company Martin Associates.

“We have the top three cruise ports in the world,” said Doug Wheeler, CEO of the Florida Ports Council. (Miami, Port Canaveral, and Port Everglades are the top three).

Port Tampa Bay ranks lower, serving about one million passengers a year. “So for them to effectively overnight lose a substantial portion of their revenues, that makes it tough for a lot of decisions that have to be made relative to capital projects and staffing and planning and so forth.”

How important is cruise revenue to Florida’s ports?

Let’s use Port Miami, the world’s largest cruise port, as an example. In 2018 Port Miami handled both cruise passenger traffic and containerized cargo. Wharfage fees for cruise passengers (basically a per head toll for each cruise passenger who stops visits Port Miami) were more than three times higher than the wharfage fees the port charged for cargo. Cruise passenger revenue rules at the Port of Miami by a factor of at least 3-to-1.

“We’re seeing some pretty serious consequences from the pandemic. In some cases as much as 60-70% of port revenue basically gone overnight,” Florida Ports Council President Doug Wheeler said during an interview .

Port Miami did not respond to PortandTerminal.com‘s request for more details on how the pandemic has impacted its income statement.

Florida’s ports though are asking for financial help from Congress, but it isn’t clear if that money will be included in the next round of pandemic relief.

It’s not just Florida’s ports who need help. Further north along the Atlantic coast, the Port of New York and New Jersey are also on their financial heels and are asking for government support to weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

We believe strongly that the government should give the ports the support that they are asking for.

Ports are the backbone of national trade. When a county’s ports are weak or worse, absent, the nation suffers.

In Beirut, the loss of its main port after last week’s devastating explosion has created the very real risk of food shortages and starvation to a once-proud Lebanese nation. America is in far better shape than Lebanon to be sure but make no mistake.

There is no American COVID-19 economic recovery without strong American ports.

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