The trade association that represents the nation’s ports has written to the leadership of United States Customs and Border Protection expressing concern about the costs that CBP expects ports to absorb for new and upgraded facilities to house CBP staff.
“From a port perspective, generally CBP staff already have adequate facilities and in most cases these facilities are occupied on nonrevenue lease terms,” wrote Kurt Nagle, CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities, in a Nov. 28 letter to CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Transport Topics, Nagle notes that CBP is requesting, “consolidated and custom-built facilities (according to CBP design specifications) for CBP personnel,” and asserts that many midsized and small port authorities lack the financial resources to complete this work.
“Many ports already are straining their budgets to build the terminal, road and rail infrastructure needed to address congestion, keep freight flowing and serve the American economy,” Nagle said. “The costs of the facilities CBP is requesting are substantial, and ports face the prospect of delaying other critical projects to meet increasing demands from CBP for new facilities. Often, change orders are requested by CBP at the last minute, driving up building costs unnecessarily. There continues to be little concern for budget overruns or timely planning in CBP requests.”
The letter also seeks clarification on why the agency is seeking new and remodeled facilities at a time when the ports claim there is a lack of CBP staffing at their facilities.
“Many ports are concerned about the continued shortage of CBP maritime staffing and would like to first better understand how staffing decisions are made and secondly, if staffing decisions are dictating the request for new CBP facilities,” the letter stated.
CBP field officers conduct an inspection at the Port of Seattle. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
In an October letter sent to U.S. House of Representatives and Senate subcommittees that oversee homeland security appropriations, AAPA pointed to CBP’s fiscal 2015 federal budget, when it was authorized to hire 2,000 additional staff to guard the borders and secure ports but assigned fewer than 20 agents to ports. “This inequity of CBP resources cannot continue,” AAPA said at the time.
AAPA urged House and Senate leaders in that letter to increase 2019 spending to keep up with the number of officers it expects to retire and to expand its ranks.
Contacted by TT for a response to the AAPA letter, a CBP spokesperson said, “CBP has received a letter from the American Association of Port Authorities and we will be responding directly to AAPA.”
As the year draws to a close, the volume of cargo being imported into the United States has soared. For example, the Port of Los Angeles processed a record 952,500 20-foot-equivalent units, or TEUs, in October, a whopping 27.2% increase from 748,600 in the same month in 2017. It was the busiest month in the port’s 111-year history.