COVID-19 impacts Michigan port, shipping business

The importance of Michigan ports to state commerce can’t be understated, nor can the Pure Michigan leisure craft and travel business.

The effects of Covid 19 on both are already impactful.

Sen. Gary Peters’ staff assured Corp! Magazine over the weekend that no additional Homeland Security limits are placed on maritime businesses, other than those already in effect regarding the U.S.-Canadian borders. Trade will continue. Peters is a ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Vessel operators and dock owners are following U.S. Coast Guard orders and procedures. Chuck Canestraight, president of Sand Products Corp/Port City Marine Services in Muskegon also is president of West Michigan Port Operators. He told Corp! the challenges have been numerous but both the U.S. and Canadian governments “are committed to keeping cross border trade open from port to port.”

He said keeping crews and dock workers healthy is the focus point, including procedures for any who may have been exposed to or exhibiting symptoms of Covid 19.

“The crews are in close quarters and all in the same box for extended periods of time,” Canestraight said. “Add to that the interface with crucial suppliers (fuel, grocery, industrial) are necessary to operate these vessels.”

Wayne County/Detroit Port Authority Executive Director Kyle Burleson was out of the office this week and staff responses to Corp! queries were not answered.

Canestraight emphasized in a follow-up email:  “The two major financial risks to the vessel operator in that 1) once we bring the crews in they are assured pay whether we can move these ships, or not…and 2) will the current demand at the various ports for raw materials (primarily the steel mills and the cement users) remain or will we be going through these difficult operations only to learn that we’re bringing the vessels to the wall because the terminals are full and not selling?”