By Matt Tomsic
Published March 6, 2013
LONG BEACH, Calif. — The maritime industry is awaiting the impacts of $85 billion of automatic federal spending cuts included in sequestration.
Panelists addressed the automatic cuts Tuesday during TPM 2013, an international maritime conference.
Leslie Blakey, executive director for the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors, said sequestration has been the word of the day in Washington, D.C., for the last year with increasingly dire warnings about the effects. The cuts began Friday.
“It will continue to be an issue for the next 10 years unless Congress does something about it,” Blakey said. “Whatever impacts we’re feeling now, we risk seeing over and over and over again over the next decade.”
The cuts include a $250 million nationwide reduction to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil works budget plus furloughs for Army Corps staff, which could affect projects like the Charleston Harbor deepening.
“We are in an impossible situation that is totally unforgivable,” said Susan Kohn Ross, an international trade attorney with Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp. “(Congress) is an entity that has clearly gone off the rails.”
Ross said the cuts will also affect Customs and Border Protection staff at the nation’s ports, and the agency has cut overtime for employees.
“There are going to be fewer ship boardings,” Ross said. “There will be less opportunity for end-of-the-day cleanup.”
Often, customs agents check backlogged containers that pile up during the day, but without overtime, they may no longer be able to get to those containers and might be forced to leave them for the next shift.
“We have no idea how long this is going to take or how badly this is going to impact what’s going to happen to the supply chain,” she said.