Sequestration Blues

John R. McLaurin
President of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association

The negative impacts of sequestration on the international trade community are looming for California’s public ports, and what happens here will ripple through the national economy in a matter of weeks unless Congress takes quick action.

California’s ports and its goods movement system support hundreds of thousands of jobs, and result in billions of dollars in taxes and fees. Products and materials that move through our ports, on our roads and by rail are found in every city and every state. 

Not only are ports an entry point for the goods that stock the shelves in our retail stores, but efficiently operating ports are also critical to the viability of our manufacturing and agricultural businesses that export products to foreign markets.

Sequestration already has meant the elimination of overtime for U.S. Customs and Border Protection services. The furloughs that will take effect in early to mid-April will delay vessel boarding by CBP workers, limit personnel at important radiation portal monitors at truck gates and rail operations, eliminate any flexibility to meet peak demand, and will mean limitations on timing of cargo inspections.

With dozens of trains and 30,000 truck moves daily through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, these delays will compound quickly and will become extreme if U. S. Customs furloughs agents in April.

Sequestration is a result of a political process focused more on perpetual campaigning than on governance. Absent intervention by the Congress and the Obama administration through the upcoming “continuing resolution,” the movement of goods through California ports will choke the marine terminals, and our ports will become the world’s largest parking lots.

Some may believe sequestration makes for good politics, but for those of us in industry, it’s bad for business, bad for workers and bad for the economy.

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