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Government Shutdown, Pirates, and Acts of Terrorism Complicate Shipping Trade

Image via Flickr by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. Fifth Fleet

The government shutdown, combined with new acts of terrorism along the Suez canal, and the normal incidents of piracy combine to complicate shipping endeavors worldwide. According to sources at the Port of Savannah, where all eleven Suez shipping services call upon for shipments to the eastern coast of the United States, 6,000 of the approximate 58,000 workers charged with processing vessels and shipments are on furlough. While U.S. Customs and Border Patrol are considered essential services, and have relatively few workers on furlough due to the government shutdown, other departments that aren’t considered essential, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Agriculture are primarily shut down. This causes delays of many hours. The worst delays are being experienced by importers of food and food products, medical devices including radiology instruments and products, and any shipment that could be considered environmentally sensitive.

The Federal Maritime Commission and International Trade Commission are also shut down, meaning all filing and data clearance has stopped. These government organizations are neither accepting nor acting upon complaints or requests for dispute resolutions.

In addition to these shipping complications, new acts of terror are occurring along the Suez Canal, where a group associated with al-Qaeda reportedly fired rocket-propelled grenades upon at least one Asian ship, and subsequently posted a video of the attack on YouTube. The ship was reportedly traveling from Vietnam to Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and first reports indicated there was no damage to the ship, cargo, or crew members.

However, later reports suggested that the shipment was carrying smuggled cigarettes, and some of the containers had, in fact, been damaged. The security firm Nexus Consultants has issued security warnings to all U.S. ships using the Suez Canal for cargo transport. As vessels navigate the treacherous waters of bureaucrats and terrorists, piracy continues to be a problem.

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