by Jared Vineyard
The nation breathes a collective sigh of relief that the government shutdown is over.
Many are angry over the levels of dysfunction that exist in Congress, but things could have been worse. Much worse. Especially for international shipping in the country.
In case you haven’t heard the news, the Chicago Tribune reports:
A 285-144 vote in the House followed an overwhelming vote in the Senate on the agreement negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to end a tense political standoff that shut down federal programs for 16 days and led to the furlough of hundreds of thousands of federal workers.
The White House budget office said federal workers should plan to return to work on Thursday morning.
In other words, furloughed workers should be going back to work today, getting customs and all the government agencies that affect your international shipping clearances back to full strength.
However, that’s not to say there were no delays experienced in people’s international shipping experience or that none will be experienced. As the real extent of the delays and costs accrued by the shutdown cannot be fully assessed yet.
There are about 6,000 employees who will be returning to work at CBP. There will surely be a great deal of work to catch up on. And it is likely, their normal workload is about to increase.
Where the biggest delays were being felt is where imports or exports required agencies like the U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission, Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, United States Department of Agriculture, and so on to put their stamp of approval on the clearance of shippers’ cargo.
As these agencies work hard to catch up on their inspections and clearance approvals, the CBP could see an increase in workload from them. This on top of a busy time for importing with the holiday season approaching and workers already stressed about over two weeks of work lost (which should be eased by the back pay they are to receive) and trying to get caught up could still produce longer than usual clearance of international shipping cargo.
Still, it is fortunate that this government shutdown ended before a huge backlog of cargo clearance built up, stalling the international shipping community that is so vital to the United States’ economy.
The last time there was a government shutdown like this (in 1995/1996), it was for a total of 27 days according to the oh so reliable Wikipedia. Of course, that last government shutdown was split into two parts, the first part happening in November of 1995 and the second in December of ’95 through January of ’96. Hopefully, this government shutdown will not see a part two.
The Chicago Tribune article quoted Rep. Charlie Dent, a Republican from Pennsylvania, as saying the following about this government shutdown’s end with the passage of the new bill:
“It’s not a win for anyone, particularly the institution of Congress or the presidency for that matter. The bill represents the conclusion of a difficult period from which I hope that many can draw important lessons.”
I think the American people can agree with the sentiment, but may have uncertainty about the conclusion of a difficult period part.
If this were a political blog or even an economic blog, there would be more to say about the raising of the debt limit, what should be done by the January date this funds the government through or the February date through which it allows borrowing to continue, but our focus here is international shipping.
The good news is that for most shippers, there should be no delays or disruptions for your imports and exports (key word being “should”). For those of you who have already experienced some delays waiting for a government agency to perform an inspection of your goods for export, you should be able to expect an end to your waiting soon.
Leave your comments on the government shutdown and international shipping in the section below this blog.