Since 21 December 2018, the US Government has been in shutdown following the failure of Congress to agree federal funding. With no end in sight, it is the longest shutdown in US history.
As a result the US Coast Guard and other federal agencies are operating at a reduced capacity.
We have not received any indications as yet that the shutdown is causing significant disruption to shipping. However, we outline how the federal agencies relevant to shipping are affected by the shutdown as follows:
US Coast Guard
The US Coast Guard (USCG) has stated that uniformed personnel will continue to perform their duties during the government shutdown and will provide essential services. This will include:
Port and homeland safety and security. The USCG are currently carrying out Port State Control (PSC) inspections on foreign flagged vessels. This has reportedly caused delays in various ports as the USCG is operating at a reduced capacity
Law enforcement and environmental response
Therefore it is unlikely that the shutdown will have an immediate risk to shipping. At present the duties not being performed during the shutdown include:
- Issuing license renewals and other merchant documentation
- Routine equipment maintenance
Due to the fact that the US Coast Guard will not be issuing license renews and other merchant documents there may be potential issues for US flagged vessels.
National Pollution Funds Centre
The National Pollution Funds Centre (NPFC) which is operated by the US Coast Guard will not be processing Certificates of Financial Responsibility (COFR) during the shutdown. The online COFR (E-COFR) remains operational and applications can still be made online. However our US correspondents advise us that it is unlikely that such applications will be processed during the shutdown. Nevertheless, it is advisable to submit them electronically so that the applications will be in the queue for processing when the shutdown ends. Presently, when a COFR holder advises the Coast Guard that they are en route to a U.S. port, the Captain of the Port will check with the NPFC to confirm whether a valid COFR is in place for the vessel. Compliance determinations will be made directly by the Captain of the Port. The NPFC has cautioned that there may be delays in granting approval to enter U.S. waters.
Members should contact us at the earliest opportunity, and before entering US waters, in the event of any application for a COFR not being confirmed. They can also seek additional information by contacting the USCG directly.
Federal Maritime Commission
Another US federal agency affected by the shutdown is the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) which is an independent agency that regulates US imports and exports. While the FMC is currently closed it will handle any regulatory issues once re-opens.
Customs and Border Protection
The Customs and Boarder Protection (CBP) agency are continuing to carry out cargo clearance and security screening operations. As with the other agencies operating at a reduced capacity, there is potential for delays at certain ports due to the CBP carrying its duties.
Vessels proceeding to US ports should request an update from local agents to establish what the impacts of the shutdown are at that particular port.
Thanks to Antonio J. Rodriguez of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP for providing North with information on the partial government shutdown.
Source: North of England P&I Club