The Baker Backup
Howdy, folks. Craig Burton here, coming through loud and clear with all the important news haulers need to know. This is another edition of Clean Shot.
Fair warning everyone, we’re desperately over capacity on valuable intel this episode. That means Skinny’s detailed assessment of Juno Starwerk’s latest take on their classic Endurance industrial-class power plant might get bumped to our next show. I hate to do it since I know many of you are waiting to hear how this model stacks up against its predecessors, but Skinny’s got a lot to say about the subtle tweaks they made and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna cut him short.
The reason we’re so tight on time today is because, well, Skinny booked us a hell of a show. Funny how that works, huh? I’ll be speaking with military historian Lavern Carlin about the Eclipse, which the UEE revealed last Friday through the Historical Truth Act. Now that we know this stealth bomber exists, and will soon to be in the hands of Citizens, we’ll find out what haulers need to know about its capabilities. That way you can not only stay safe from them, but also maybe even use one of ‘em to your advantage. Remember, the type of ship you hire for a protection run is, I would argue, almost as important as the pilot hired. Now I know there’s different schools of thought on this, but no matter where you stand, we can all agree that it’s important to know what your options are.
But first, let’s turn our attention to the growing brouhaha in the Baker System, where haulers have been reporting a dramatic increase in wait times at the customs stations checking ships coming from Xi’an space into the UEE. Seems there’s been a huge uptick in not only the number of scans but also the depth of the searches being performed. Rumors have been spinning out of control, with some claiming that the increase may be due to a classified security concern while others believe the reasons behind it are entirely political.
Recently, the Senate announced that it had scheduled a vote on HuXa, Imperator Costigan’s proposed Human-Xi’an Trade Initiative, for Tuesday June 6 SET. With that date quickly approaching, seems politicians and experts of all kinds are flocking to spectrum shows to debate the pros and cons of increased trade with the Xi’an. The recent customs issues in Baker have only fueled the flames on both sides of the argument, while some are even saying that the HuXa vote may be the cause of the crackdown in the first place.
Let’s set the potential causes aside for a moment and focus on the effects. With the tightening of Baker’s customs security entering its sixth day, the backup’s been causing all kinds of headaches for haulers across the Empire. Those of you who don’t work Baker might not realize just how vital it is to our trade with the Xi’an. Let me explain it this way. If you’ve got a Hull-E full of valuable ore from a Xi’an mining operation, and you need to get it back into the UEE, there are only three large jump points you can use. Two of them are located in Baker. This has big rig haulers watching their profits evaporate while sitting in long customs lines, and even has people frantically offloading cargo to different ships that can fit through smaller jump points.
This morning there were even reports of CTR stations in a number of systems suffering from fuel shortages and depleted store shelves — all because CTR is owned by the Jysho Corporation, a Xi’an company. The slowdown has forced station owners to seek out local vendors to restock items that would normally come from Xi’an sources.
Here to discuss with us exactly what’s going on is Jasper Grzenda. He’s the spokesperson for Baker’s Public Sector Union Local #1011 and also a Customs Bureau shift supervisor within the system. He’s been in the thick of it for the past few days, and hopefully has some answers for us.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. I know a lot of haulers out there are wondering exactly what’s going on in Baker. What’s the first thing you would tell them?
Jasper Grzenda: First, thanks for having me on, Craig. If you’re a hauler sitting in one of Baker’s long customs lines, then let me apologize for the inconvenience. I can guarantee you that the Customs Bureau agents currently working the jumps to Pallas and Hadur are doing their very best to get you cleared in a timely manner.
Let’s cut to the chase. What’s going on here, Jasper?
Jasper Grzenda: As you mentioned, Baker is an essential part of Humanity’s trade relationship with the Xi’an. Every day we process more ships and cargo going to and from the Xi’an Empire than for any other system. It’s a massive operation with massive responsibilities, chief among them to ensure we don’t let anything in or out of the Empire that shouldn’t cross our border.
Come on, Jasper, there are hardworking haulers who are getting boned because of the sudden and unannounced changes at Baker’s customs stations. You know as well as anyone that haulers carefully plan and time their routes. That’s how we turn a profit. Doubling or tripling time spent waiting in one of Baker’s customs lines has messed with a lot of good people.
Jasper Grzenda: Trust me, I can sympathize, but we all have tough jobs to do. If anyone knows what it’s like to be overworked and underpaid, it’s the good folks of the Local #1011. Traffic through these two customs stations in Baker has increased significantly over the past few years, yet our budget has barely changed. Everyone here’s just trying to do their job with the resources they have.
Guess I’m more curious about the sudden shift in how you’re doing the job. Some trade groups told me that scans and ship inspections have almost tripled over the past few days.
Jasper Grzenda: And yesterday, the Pallas customs station broke its previous record for the total amount of contraband seized in a day. The increased scans might have slowed things down, but you can’t argue with the results.
It’s a silver lining, for sure, but does it really justify this entire mess?
Jasper Grzenda: Craig, I understand your frustration, but, if I can be blunt, you’ve got a bit of narrow vision here. If you were in system, I’d invite you to the Pallas customs station to see all the illegal goods and contraband we confiscated yesterday. The crates of undeclared weapons destined for who knows where. The shelves overflowing with e’tâm that otherwise would be poisoning our youth and addicting them to a substance that we know next to nothing about. Is tackling these problems not worth the minor headaches being caused by the backlog?
Hey, I’ve got no problems with the increased enforcement, only that its execution was so poorly managed. You guys dramatically increased the scan and search rates without bringing in additional agents to support it. Why would you do this if you didn’t have the staff to handle it?
Jasper Grzenda: Because if we waited until we were properly staffed, then it’d never happen. “Extra resources” and “overtime pay” are not part of the Custom Bureau’s vocabulary. Our budget is already stretched dangerously thin, so bringing in extra agents to expedite the backup just isn’t an option.
So why do it at all?
Jasper Grzenda: We’ve been told many times that a lack of personnel and resources is not an excuse for failing to do our jobs. So we’re doing our damn jobs, Craig.
I just find the timing of all this to be very interesting.
Jasper Grzenda: How so?
Well, this stricter enforcement policy went into effect shortly after the Senate announced a date to vote on HuXa.
Jasper Grzenda: Just because two things happen around the same time doesn’t mean they’re related.
But the Public Sector Union Local #1011, of which you’re a member, has some skin in that game, doesn’t it? The group has been extremely vocal in their opposition to the bill. That’s a fair characterization, right?
Jasper Grzenda: Absolutely. We have to be.
Jasper Grzenda: Because Baker lacks Senate representation, so there’s no one on Earth advocating directly for us. That makes it our job to bang the drum about what’s not working around here.
So, you can see how trouble at the Baker customs stations right now might draw attention to your cause and, say, get you booked on shows like this to push your agenda.
Jasper Grzenda: I’m only here ’cause you guys commed us.
Because of all the trouble your Customs Bureau is causing over what looks like a political dispute.
Jasper Grzenda: See, this is one thing that rubs me the wrong way about the rest of the Empire. No one pays much mind to Baker until an issue arises. Well, let me just say that if HuXa passes, you all will have to get used to this.
Used to what?
Jasper Grzenda: Long lines going to and from Baker. Some experts are predicting traffic through the system could as much as double if HuXa passes.
Aren’t there measures in the bill that would address and ease your budgetary issues?
Jasper Grzenda: Yeah, but no more than a nine or ten percent increase. To put that in perspective, that much would barely cover the cost of getting us out of this current situation. It’s not even close to what we need to handle the kinds of traffic increases we’re talking about. If HuXa passes, then this might very well be the new normal, and haulers should probably adjust their timetables accordingly.
Then we’ll just have to find other solutions. Bonded cargo. Trusted hauler programs. Hell, might even be a good time for us to look harder for a few more large jumps into Xi’an space. But after being in this business as long as I have, longer lines or not, all I know is trying to limit trade and commerce is never a good solution.
We need to take a quick commercial break. There’s more with Jasper Grzenda around the bend, so keep Clean Shot locked in.