US ports feel pain of government shutdown

US Coast Guard The US Coast Guard is only carrying out operations that provide for national security, or that protect life and property. Credit: US Coast Guard

US ports are suffering delays to development projects in addition to the threat of loss of business as a result of the partial government shutdown, an American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) conference call has revealed.

During the call with government relations staff of many of AAPA's US member ports, multiple administrative and operational issues were highlighted including missed business opportunities reported by a port that isn’t able to get the requisite federal approvals to enable businesses that want to utilise its Foreign Trade Zone to reduce or eliminate costly import tariffs.

Aaaron Ellis, public affairs director at the AAPA, said these "examples are illustrative of the impacts that the partial government shutdown are having, both directly and indirectly, in the ability of U.S. ports to operate effectively and continue growing as cargo volumes increase."

He added: "Coupled with stories like terminal congestion on the West Coast that may require ports to pay for CBP staff overtime to clear the cargo, and the U.S. Coast Guard running out of resources to pay for things like aircraft parts and routine maintenance for its equipment, the situation is becoming more complex by the day."

Contractors and businesses could be impacted if scheduled work and projects cannot go ahead.

Mr Ellis explained that while ports require the use of tug boats to move ships around their harbour, the AAPA has heard that several mariners from tug companies in one port can’t currently bring on new hires to staff those tugs because there’s no one to issue them the requisite mariner credentials.

The AAPA heard that multiple ports are experiencing development delays, with one port currently not able to apply for an EPA brownfield grant to expand the operating area around its terminals and another not able to apply for an EPA brownfield grant to expand the operating area around its terminals.

Similarly, one port said it is unable to apply for an Environmental Historic Preservation review from FEMA, which is often required for new port property development to be undertaken, and another port indicated it is experiencing permitting and regulatory delays from EPA and NOAA to undertake needed maintenance and repair projects.

The US Coast Guard has said that its website will not be actively managed that due to the lapse in federal funding.

It stated: “In the absence of an enacted appropriation or continuing resolution, the Coast Guard is required to execute an orderly suspension of some operations and activities. In general, the Coast Guard will continue operations authorized by law that provide for national security, or that protect life and property. The Coast Guard will perform these exempt functions and activities even during a lapse in appropriations. All non-exempt functions and activities must be suspended or terminated.”

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