Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sequestration Affects Customs Operations

Mandatory steep cuts in the federal budget that went into effect March 1 due to a government process called sequestration will lead to workforce reductions and long waits for cargo inspections at US Customs field offices at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex and elsewhere, according to Customs officials.

“We anticipate significant potential impacts to cross-border travel and trade,” Customs Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar wrote in March 2 letter to members of the trade and travel industries. “These negative impacts are going to increase as we enter peak travel seasons.”

The sequestration cuts, which include furloughs, reductions in overtime and a hiring freeze, are equivalent to the loss of up to several thousand officers, according to Customs.

Among the impacts Aguilar listed was a decrease in service levels in cargo operations, including the possibility of waits of five days or more at major seaports of container examinations, and “reduced flexibility” to maintain or extend operating hours or respond to requests for new services.

Aguilar said the letter was part of an ongoing dialogue between the Dept. of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and private stakeholders and that there are plans to continue direct communications on the issue.

“CBP is very concerned about the ramifications of sequestration and we will endeavor to operate in a manner that is least disruptive to our mission and to your businesses,” Aguilar said in the letter, which was sent to 28 trade and travel entities, including the Border Trade Alliance, Cruise Lines International Association, Trade Support Network and World Shipping Council.