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Ports Brace for Potential Government Shutdown

Container vessel approaching the terminal at the Port of Savannah, Georgia.

Posted on September 27, 2023

Port interests in the United States should monitor the potential of a partial or full government shut down as House Republicans fail to come to terms on a spending plan.

According to the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), a government shutdown will have potential effects on port operations if Congress is unable to reach an agreement.

Congress has until September 30 pass all appropriations bills or a continuing resolution that would fund the government temporarily while negotiations continue.

While it’s difficult to predict the likelihood of a shutdown, AAPA says it is important for ports and their partners to be prepared for these potential impacts and to monitor the situation closely.

Under a government shutdown, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will continue to carry out their missions without pay. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief efforts will also likely continue as they are funded separately from regular appropriations.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be unable to execute new contracts, although contractors performing work funded before September 30 will continue working.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s shutdown contingency plan states that staff overseeing the Port Infrastructure Development Program and America’s Marine Highways Program will continue working during a shutdown using funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and other sources. Similarly, the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) and Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight & Highway Projects (INFRA) programs will remain staffed due to IIJA funds.

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) will operate with minimal staff, but FMC Commissioners are exempt from furlough. Congressional offices will also be operating with skeleton crews, severely limiting their ability to respond to requests.


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