The Second Front Line of COVID-19: How U.S. Ports are Operating to Keep the Supply Chain and Economy Afloat

The Second Front Line of COVID-19: How U.S. Ports are Operating to Keep the Supply Chain and Economy Afloat
March 19, 2020 Aldo Flores
Bird's eye view of a ship coming in to a dock with many shipping containers

With the spread of COVID-19 throughout the country and world, many businesses are taking unprecedented measures to help slow the virus. While healthcare workers work relentlessly on the front lines of the pandemic, U.S. ports also play a vital role in keeping our supply chains flowing and the global economy open.

U.S. ports are an essential part of everyday life—and while extra precautions are being implemented—trade and business doesn’t stop. Here is a look at how the top U.S. ports are operating during this time.

The Port of Los Angeles

The Port of Los Angeles is fully functional. There are currently no reports of COVID-19 impacting any vessels. All terminals are open and operating, with around 85% of normal cargo volume. Executive Director Gene Seroka released the following video statement regarding impacts.

The Port of Long Beach

The port of Long Beach is also fully functional and working with Government agencies to ensure the safety of employees, while keeping supply chains open. The Port released the following statement reading in part:

“While the Port’s primary focus is to protect the well-being of the Port and industry workforce, all stakeholders are working diligently to ensure that cargo operations continue, maintaining a vital link in the supply chain to ensure everyday goods continue to be available to Americans.

To slow community spread of COVID-19, the Port Administration Building, Joint Security Command and Control Center and Maintenance Facility are closed to the public through March 31, 2020, or until further notice.”

The Port of New York and New Jersey

The nation’s third largest Port, New York and New Jersey, is also working under normal conditions primarily—apart from holding all non-essential meetings remotely. The following statement is posted on the Port’s blog.

Our supply chain partners from the marine terminal operators and longshore labor to truckers and warehouse and distribution center operators are working hard to help sustain our economy and support the 28 million consumers in the local region that are dependent on the Port during this difficult time.

The Port is coordinating with our federal, state and local partners, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and other emergency and public health agencies to address public health and safety concerns.


The Port of Savannah

The Port of Savannah is operating at full capacity, while adding extra precautions to ensure the safety of workers. The added safety measures include suspending travel for employees and postponing all in-person meetings.

“Georgia’s ports remain open for business! The GPA would like to thank our employees, the State of Georgia and many partners, including the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard, stevedores, trucking community and river pilots for pulling together to keep our ports moving ahead full steam. Please know we appreciate this teamwork and the collective effort during this challenging time. Together we will sustain trade for our communities, our state and our nation.”

The Port of Houston

The Port of Houston, the nation’s 5th largest Port, has been hit harder by the coronavirus. Operations were suspended at Barbours Cut and Bayport container terminals after an employee tested positive for the virus. We received the following statement regarding the terminals reopening.

“We are pleased to report that previously closed terminals at Port of Houston as result of suspected Coronavirus issue are going to reopen later today (March 19). Business to return back to normal tomorrow for our terminal at Barbours Cut. Customers can expect some delays for truckers accessing the terminal.

The Port of Seattle and Tacoma

Seattle has been hit hard by COVID-19—and the Port is taking additional measures to keep employees safe, while continuing operations. All terminals in Seattle and Tacoma are currently open. Below is statement explaining the additional protocols that have been implemented.

Keeping health and safety a top priority for everyone working on the waterfront, each terminal has modified its business continuity plan in response to the rapidly evolving nature of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

To slow the spread of the virus, the international and domestic terminals have adopted mitigation plans, which include the implementation of social distancing measures, a reduction in access to terminals for nonessential personnel and minimizing in-person contact between workers and customers.”

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