The maritime industry plays a key role in the response to Covid-19

As the country continues to adapt to the evolving global pandemic, the tug, tug and barge industry is playing a quiet but important role in the national response to the Covid-19 crisis.

Over the past 10 months, through shutdowns and major economic shifts, ships navigating the inland and coastal waterways have continued to work under strict health protocols, assisting ships arriving in U.S. ports and moving products into the entire inland river system that sustains the national and global economy. Go.

Tidewater saw a brief increase in the movement of wood products used in the manufacture of paper products in April due to demand for toilet paper and paper towels. Maritime transport and photo terminals

For many companies, demand for their ships has plummeted, especially for energy-related products, as the pandemic has lowered global demand for oil. Other lines of barges that carry grain primarily for export flourished. Overall, companies and their employees seem to have adapted well to the new health and sanitary operating rules that have helped to avoid widespread Covid outbreaks and keep barge towing moving. Unlike other industries, major layoffs were avoided.

All shipping lines play a role in the pandemic response as they are important players in the global supply chain, transporting all types of cargo that are essential to the economy. It may not be obvious, but transporting these products powers refineries, power plants and factories, ships full of grain for export and steel and lumber for construction. This keeps many Americans working and ensures products are available to consumers.


Some companies have seen cases directly related to the Covid-19 response, transporting materials used to make medical supplies, hand sanitizer, personal protective equipment or guiding to port navy hospital ships called to help in New York and Los Angeles.

Maritime transport and terminals, Vancouver, Wash., saw a 5% to 7% increase in the movement of finished wood products in the Pacific Northwest in April compared to the same month in 2019, due to an increase in demand for toilet paper and paper towels, according to shipping and logistics manager Geoff Doersler. “It has since stabilized, and we are now back to business as usual.”

American commercial barge line, one of the nation’s largest barge operators, said it hauled more than 1.6 million gallons. of denatured ethanol, a key ingredient in alcohol-based hand sanitizers, sanitizers, sprays, wipes and cleaners, has been along the inland river system since the start of the pandemic. The Jeffersonville, Indiana company said several of its tugs took turns pushing barges of denatured ethanol along the Gulf Coast of Texas and down the Mississippi and Ohio rivers before it was discharged and processed.

Tug companies along the east and west coasts also assisted with the arrival and departure of two Navy hospital ships.

New York-based tugs McAllister Towing helped moor the USNS Comfort hospital ship as it arrives in New York on March 30 to support the coronavirus response. Four Z-drive tractor tugs maneuvered the 900-foot Navy vessel through the Manhattan cruise terminal at Pier 90 in the Hudson River.

Before leaving New York after treating 180 patients during its month-long stay, the bunkering of the Comfort was operated by Baltimore’s Vane Brothers. “Vane’s bunkering of the Comfort shows that our sailors and the work they do were essential to the emergency response that the Comfort supplied, as well as to commerce in normal times,” said John Bowie, managing director of New York-based Vane at the time.

On the west coast, the tugs of Maritime Foss Co. escorted the USNS Mercy in Los Angeles in late March, where the ship treated non-Covid patients to relieve pressure on local hospitals.

At the end of the year, Los Angeles requested that the ship return to help deal with a second outbreak of Covid-19, but the Pity is currently undergoing extended maintenance at a shipyard in Portland, Ore, and the Navy says it won’t be available anytime soon.

If a redeployment of Pity happen, Foss is ready to help again, said Jeff Horst, vice president of sales and marketing for the Seattle-based company. He added that Foss had also helped the Pity in Vigorshipyard on the Columbia River for repairs.

This mission is an example of how maritime companies are helping during the pandemic.

“Our tugs have been assisting vessels that we can only assume were carrying supplies needed by first responders,” Horst said. “Given the volume of the last four months, breaking records of container ship arrivals and ships at anchor waiting to berth, the supply chain is full and the entire maritime community has a role to play in s to ensure that we continue operations and that supplies continue. Our crewing protocols are strict and have proven effective in ensuring a healthy workforce.

The pandemic response has also forced many shipping lines to revamp their services and business plans. AT maritime crowleyJacksonville, Fla., the company has adapted as its customers have adapted to new market demands imposed by the pandemic.

“As customers have changed, we have changed,” said David DeCamp, director of corporate communications. In addition to operating vessels, Crowley is a diversified supply chain logistics company, serving government and commercial customers with a range of transportation services.

Through his various business units, Crowley has taken on more government and military work, supporting the delivery of protective masks, PPE and emergency food deliveries, he said, working with businesses in the states. United States and Central America which have reorganized their production to manufacture protective equipment.

In April, Crowley shipped a container of donated fresh produce from Puerto Rico to low-income families and community centers in New York’s Hispanic community that have been impacted by the pandemic. Container arrived on Crowley’s LNG-powered container ship Taino in Jacksonville and was then trucked to New York for distribution.

At the onset of Covid-19, when public knowledge of the virus was just beginning to evolve, Crowley developed a new design and operating concept for a medical support barge. It is a large decked barge that can be quickly deployed to provide emergency accommodation for around 500 people during Covid outbreaks. But demand for such a vessel has eased as the Covid response has evolved in recent months, DeCamp said, although temporarily converting barges for such medical purposes remains a “viable concept”.

The maritime community, which is considered an essential workforce, has made many operational changes and “has done a terrific job of keeping commerce moving and the logistics supply chain viable amidst personal sacrifice”, added Cole Cosgrove, Vice President of Global Vessel Management at Crowley.

The next big challenge, he said, will be getting priority access to the Covid vaccine for maritime workers.

“The challenges have been many – and some remain to be resolved – but the maritime workforce remains resilient and continues to meet global freight transport needs.”