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Ferry Industry Seeks Financial Assistance Amid COVID-19

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

March 26, 2020

© luengo_ua / Adobe Stock

© luengo_ua / Adobe Stock

Ferry operators stuggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic will need government backing to help offset billions of dollars of unsustainable losses, Interferry says.

The trade association is asking governments globally to include the ferry industry in their respective COVID-19 financial aid packages so that ferry operators can continue providing essential services, and to ensure that critical infrastructure and personnel are available once the global economy begins to recover.

Specifically, Interferry says it is seeking support for the ferry industry from various levels of government as follows: (1) direct financial support to replace lost and severely reduced revenues; (2) provision of interest free loans; (3) tax relief from payroll taxes and other government imposed taxes; and (4) relief from fixed Port fees (where applicable). 

The request follows a similar one earlier this month from the Passenger Vessel Association (PVA), a trade group representing the U.S. passenger vessel industry, urging President Trump to include passenger vessel operators in the administration's financial assistance plans being rolled out in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

In Singapore, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Heng Swee Keat, announced Thursday, that passenger vessel owners and operators, as well as passenger terminal operators, will be included as part of the country's Resilience Budget.

The ferry industry, which had been distinctly upbeat prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic, transports more than two billion passengers annually - equivalent to the airline industry - along with 250 million personal vehicles and 40 million trucks and trailers. Worldwide, COVID-19 travel restrictions have significantly reduced the number of passengers carried, and in many locations have closed passenger ferry service entirely.  However, many ro-pax operators continue to provide freight serviceeven though they are no longer able to transport passengers or personal vehicles.

“Ferry operators understand the essential role they play in keeping the supply chain channels open,” says Interferry CEO Mike Corrigan. “These companies continue to provide lifeline service, recognizing they are incurring mounting financial losses that are unsustainable over the longer-term.  Operators are reporting declines in passenger traffic between 75 and 100% and reductions in vehicle traffic of more than 50%.”  

Corrigan adds, “Interferry would also like to recognize the extraordinary efforts and sacrifices that ferry crews across the globe are making to ensure the uninterrupted delivery of vital goods. With families at home to worry about, and an end to the COVID-19 crisis still unknown, ferry crews are showing up for work each day to ensure that ships sail and goods get delivered.”

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