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Cuts hit container inspections

Published 10:43pm Thursday, March 7, 2013

Across-the-board federal spending cuts could result in “potentially escalating” delays to container inspections at Hampton Roads seaports of up to at least five days, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The federal agency’s deputy commissioner, David V. Aguilar, notified trade and travel groups of so-called sequestration’s effects at major seaports and other facilities in a letter to trade and travel groups this month.

After $1.2 trillion in federal spending cuts over 10 years took effect Friday, Aguilar sent the letter out Saturday, “to provide you with information on how these budget cuts are likely to affect our operations,” and to allow recipients to plan accordingly.

The ability to maintain or extend Customs operating hours or respond to requests for new services will also be reduced, Aguilar wrote.

But he stressed that security efforts will be prioritized, writing, “We will not allow degradation of our primary anti-terrorism mission.”

Impacts from sequestration-derived furloughs, overtime reductions and a freeze on hiring will mean “the loss of up to several thousand CBP officers at our ports of entry, in addition to significant cuts to our operating budgets and program.

“We are committed to working with you to manage the impact that these automatic cuts will have on our missions and on your industries.”

The cuts come at a time when the Port of Virginia is experiencing record growth in container throughput.

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