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US government shutdown is yet to cripple air cargo, but delays could be looming

THE US government shutdown has prompted air cargo associations to raise concerns that the industry will suffer over the short- and long-term if the standoff is not brought to a swift close

US government shutdown is yet to cripple air cargo, but delays could be looming

THE US government shutdown has prompted air cargo associations to raise concerns that the industry will suffer over the short- and long-term if the standoff is not brought to a swift close

22 January 2019 - 19:00

THE US government shutdown has prompted air cargo associations to raise concerns that the industry will suffer over the short- and long-term if the standoff is not brought to a swift close.

Last week, concerns were raised regarding aircraft certification. Daily operations also stand to be impacted if the shutdown continues over the longer term.



In a DHL Resilience360 post, the company said the extended shutdown is at the point 'where further continuation will have noticeable impact on supply chains,' reported Air Cargo World, New York.



Although, many US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) staff are continuing to work without pay to perform essential security operations related to aviation, many federal contractors are responsible for less front-facing tasks that are still vital, such as database and information updates.



The TSA said that unscheduled absences are up slightly compared to the same time last year and that many employees are reporting they are unable to work due to financial hardships.



As the DHL post noted: 'While essential employee provisions and automated flagging serve as an important contingency measure, further slowdowns by TSA employees, whose responsibilities include outbound shipment inspection, could be a sign of similar operational slowdowns to come.'



So far, the impact on cargo screening at major US airports seems minimal. Airforwarders Association executive director Brandon Fried told Air Cargo World that is likely due to air cargo operations being less reliant on TSA screening on a daily basis than on the passenger side.



According to Mr Fried, thanks to earlier efforts from the industry to work with the US Congress, the sector is able to pre-screen a significant portion of air cargo before it arrives at airports, with 50 per cent of cargo transported in the bellyholds of passenger aircraft arriving pre-screened.



The recent approval for K9 screening also came just in time, Mr Fried added, to enable the industry to handle a good part of its own screening during the government shutdown.



However, the air cargo industry still relies on federal employees currently furloughed or working without pay for many other functions, including guidance on routine security screening, permit renewals, application processing and certain export licenses required from the Department of Defense.



'Although day-to-day operations are still ongoing for those employees deemed essential, needed guidance and more complex processes are falling by the wayside during the shutdown,' the report added.


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