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Sequestration cuts already affecting local ports

March 5, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The Port of Los Angeles is the busiest in the country and sixth busiest in the world when combined with the Port of Long Beach. But port officials say the federal government's $85 billion budget sequestration is already starting to slow that stream of cargo, thanks to overtime cutbacks to U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors.

Sean Strawbridge, managing director of trade development and port operations at the Port of Long Beach, says over $1 billion a day in goods move through the two ports.

"So any impact has an amplified effect, not only on the local economy, but the regional economy and the national economy as well," Strawbridge said.

Customs agents are responsible for screening cargo ships for materials that could be used by terrorists. When their overtime hours go away, port officials say ships stack up, and dock workers get paid to sit.

Kristin Decase, CEO of the Port of Hueneme, says the cutbacks have already cost them an entire day of operation.

"They cut overtime, so they cut all of our opportunities to do business on Saturdays," she said.

Customs and Border Protection officials said in a statement, "CBP will focus its resources on its core mission areas, operating in a way that is least disruptive to the facilitation of lawful travel and trade while not compromising our security mission; however, itineraries should be adjusted to account for unexpected delays."

But port directors say those delays don't have to happen.

"Customs should be looking at cutting nonessential operations first before they cut essential operations," Strawbridge said. "It's very concerning for us that essential operations are already being affected less than a week into sequestration."


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