Government shutdown stalls U.S. Coast Guard

January 23, 2019

Maritime Law Alert

Author(s): Alison B. Torbitt

Along with other components of the U.S. federal government, the U.S. Coast Guard remains shut down for processing all commercial transactions.

Effective midnight EST December 22, 2018, the U.S. federal government shut down due to lack of passing an appropriations bill, which continues as of the date of this alert. One of the surprising impacts of this shutdown is on the U.S. Coast Guard (“USCG”), which falls under the Department of Homeland Security, compared to the other military branches that fall under the Defense Department and were therefore not directly impacted by the shutdown. While the USCG continues to keep in operation as many of its functions as legally possible for national security and/or to protect life and property, many aspects of their operations, including the commercial transactions processed by the National Vessel Documentation Center (“NVDC”), do not meet the qualifications for a continuance during the lapse in appropriations. Therefore, the NVDC is now “closed to the public until further notice.” Phone service and customer walk-ins are suspended. While mail is still received, it may not be timely processed. In contrast, recreational transactions continue, as those services are considered user fee-based and, therefore, qualify for the continuance. Recreational Vessel owners who need to contact the NVDC may do so by sending an e-mail to: In addition, significant numbers of USCG employees and contractors did not receive their January 15th paycheck. Regardless of politics, we hope for a prompt resolution that allows the USCG to continue their important work and to get paid for their significant contributions to the shipping industry and to our security.

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