LETTER OPPOSING APHIS FEE INCREASE
LETTER TO THE FEDERAL DOCKET CLERK, JUNE 22, 2014
The North Atlantic Ports Association, Inc. (NAPA) is submitting this letter to oppose the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed rule, published in the Federal Register Vol. 79, No. 80, April 25, 2014. That rule would add new agricultural quarantine and inspection (AQI) user fees and increase fees for overtime services. NAPA feels that this proposal, if implemented, will be detrimental to trade, commerce, and the maritime industry.
NAPA, founded in 1949, is one of the oldest and most active trade associations of commercial seaports. Its membershipis comprised of and represents the interests of ports from Atlantic Canada down to and including the Commonwealth of Virginia. Our goal is to promote ocean commerce in a responsible manner in order to strengthen the national economy and help our communities to prosper. Our member ports, in the United States, are Portland, Portsmouth, Gloucester, Boston, New Bedford, Providence, Davisville, New London, New Haven, Bridgeport, Albany, New York & New Jersey, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore, Richmond, and Norfolk.
We understand that in this time of tight budgets and ever dwindling resources that it is more difficult than ever for our Federal partners to maintain acceptable levels of service in the provision of critical functions. We also recognize the proposed fees are based on Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) personnel visiting vessels and reviewing manifests and documentation accompanying incoming cargo; targeting higher risk cargo for inspection or clearance; inspecting various types of agricultural and agricultural-related commodities, containers, compliant wood packing material, and other packing materials to screen for the presence of plant pests and contaminants and the many other tasks necessary to protect our environment. Further, we understand that the overtime rates in question have not been increased since 2005.
Notwithstanding the above, we need the Department of Agriculture to understand the impact of the suggested increases in light of the competitive environment in which we operate. We are primarily comprised of mid-sized ports that not only compete with ports in the North Atlantic range, but also with ports across the United States and in Atlantic Canada. Given the intent of the proposed rule to increase fees at all U.S. ports, such increases would make NAPA ports particularly vulnerable as we compete with ports in Atlantic Canada. When steamship lines seek out ports of call, they calculate all involved costs. This increase has the potential of pricing the ports of the North Atlantic Range out of the market.
Please also note: international vessel calls occur 7 days a week, 24 hours a day at ports around the world. Their schedules do not allow enough flexibility to avoid “off hour work.” Most maritime industry companies and organization have instituted shift work to accommodate these schedules. This is but one tactic that APHIS should consider as a cost containment measure. Just as in the private sector, our customers will look for more competitive alternatives if their fees are increased.
In this difficult economic climate, when each cost is being analyzed by all parties to a given supply chain, we would hope that our Federal agency partners would work hand in hand with all commercial maritime service providers to help them optimize their respective operations thereby enabling all participants to continue supporting local, regional and national economic growth. On February 19, 2014, President Obama issued an Executive Order directing executive departments and agencies to streamline the import/export process for American business. If implemented, the proposed rule would be inconsistent with this Executive Order.
We join our voice with those of the many other organizations that are opposing this action.
We thank you for your consideration.
Capt. F. Bradley Wellock