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Customs Officials To Help Keep Cargo Moving

WASHINGTON - Taking into account Customs officials' expressed hopes to minimize the impact of federal spending cuts on cargo processing, import volume at the nation's major retail container ports is expected to increase 2.7% in April over the same month last year.
     The projection comes from the monthly Global Port Tracker report released last week by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
     "The impact of sequestration isn't yet fully known, but Customs officials are working hard to manage their resources and keep cargo moving," said Jonathan Gold, NRF vp for supply chain and Customs policy. "Between their efforts to avoid delays and retailers' adjustments to compensate, we're not expecting consumers to see any difference on store shelves at this point. We are working closely with Customs to ensure that that remains the case."
     NRF noted U.S. Customs and Border Protection told businesses last week that federal sequestration cuts that took effect in March could still have a "serious impact" on the agency, including increased wait times for customs inspections at ports. But officials said recent passage of the Fiscal year 2013 appropriations bill by Congress "allows CPB to mitigate to some degree the impacts."
     Staff furloughs and cuts in overtime that were previously expected have not been canceled, but have been put on hold.
     Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Long Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.
     The first six months of 2013 are expected to total 8.1 million TEU, up 4.7% from the first half of 2012. The total for 2012 was 15.9 million TEU, up 3.4% from 2011.
     "Economic indicators continue to present a mixed picture of the prospects for the remainder of the year," said Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates. "Sequestration does not help, but on the other hand is not yet a major factor to take into account."

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