US shutdown threat 'not yet a crisis'
As the US partial government shutdown continues the maritime industry has raised concerns over operational stability as security, customs and air safety workers are facing being unpaid, but ports appear yet to be impacted by the situation.
At the Port of Seattle, approximately 2,000 federal staff are used including Transportation Security Administration officers for security screening, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers for customs processing and Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers, though the port said it had not experienced significant delays.
“Workers who are deemed essential to our nation’s safety and productivity deserve their full paychecks this Friday. They did not waver in their commitment to the public good. We need to pay them,” said Port of Seattle Commission President Stephanie Bowman. “This partial federal shutdown is not making our borders or our facilities safer or more secure. The Trump administration needs to end this shutdown now.”
However, the shutdown doesn’t appear to have affected port operations so far, with the Port of Los Angeles telling Port Strategy that it “has not experienced any backlogs or delays due to the partial government shutdown.”
Aaron Ellis, public affairs director at American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), stated that “most of the services provided by the federal government to ensure the movement of goods (imports and exports) and people (primarily cruise passengers) through America’s ports are considered “essential,” so the impacts of the partial government shutdown to America’s seaports has been relatively light so far.”
The AAPA issued a warning prior to the shutdown, however, it stated that DHS inspections and any safety or emergency programmes of government agencies, including the Coast Guard, are continuing to function.
Nine US government departments are affected by the shutdown, which began on 22 December after US President Donald Trump requested US$5m in funding for a wall on the US-Mexico border, which the US Democrat party opposed, but Mr Trump refused to back down on. The resulting standoff has seen funding for salaries blocked meaning some workers being required to work without pay.
Departments and agencies on which ports depend that have been shuttered include the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection; Department of Agriculture; Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); Department of Housing and Urban Development; Department of Interior; Department of Justice; Department of State; Department of Transportation; Department of Treasury and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Port of Seattle said that state and federal laws limit what it can do to help workers, but it is looking into multiple initiatives including partnerships with local non-profit financial institutions who can offer zero-interest loans to federal employees working at the port who are not being paid.
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