Port security: Rockefeller set to roll out new maritime security legislation
The SAFE Port Act, which was enacted in October 2006, is one of the latest additions to this port security framework. The act made a number of adjustments to programs within this framework, creating additional programs or lines of effort and altering others.
July 22, 2010
United States port security may be seeing some notable changes should legislation to be introduced by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) one day be signed into law.
At a hearing held yesterday by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, entitled “SAFE Port Act: Securing our Nation’s Critical Infrastructure,” Rockefeller, the committee’s chairman, said his bill will:
- focus on critical areas, including small vessel security, especially hazardous cargo, and the security of the global supply chain;
- reauthorizing the port security grant program to ensure that adequate resources exist to secure U.S. port facilities; and
- address key security gaps and lessons learned in the past four years.
In his opening comments, Senator Rockefeller said that the size, location, and constant movement at ports make them vulnerable to a potential terrorist attack, adding that if terrorists were to shut down a major port, the economic disruption to the U.S. economy would be incalculable.
“Maritime security is more than just protecting our ports from attack,” said Rockefeller. “It is protecting our ships—both military and commercial, preventing attacks in our communities, and keeping extremely hazardous materials from being used as weapons.”
He cited how in 2007 Congress required 100 percent scanning of all ocean borne cargo containers entering the U.S. But in 2009 DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano told the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee last month that 100-percent scanning of inbound ocean cargo containers will not meet the 2012 deadline.
The impetus for cargo scanning was put forth when former President George W. Bush signed “H.R. 1 Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007” into law in August 2007. The bill calls for the 100-percent scanning of maritime cargo before it’s loaded onto vessels heading for the United States to be required by 2012.
The bill also called for specific annual benchmarks on the percentage of maritime cargo containers headed for the U.S.; an analysis of how to best incorporate existing maritime security initiatives, including the Container Security Initiative and C-TPAT; and an analysis of the scanning equipment, personnel, and technology needed to reach the 100-percent container scanning objective.
“While inspections and operations at our ports are a key component of our strategy, to fully meet our responsibilities, we must identify and stop threats before they arrive at American ports,” said Alan Bersin, Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at yesterday’s hearing. “This requires we stop the flow of cargo at each stage of the supply chain—at the point of origin, while in transit, and when it arrives in the United States.”
In an interview with LM, American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) Vice President of Government Relations Susan Monteverde said of the proposals put forth by Rockefeller regarding future legislation, small vessel security has not been adequately addressed and more needs to be done in that area, as well as 100 percent cargo scanning currently not being a workable policy.
And while Rockefeller aims to reauthorize the Port Security Grant Program, which was part of former President George Bush’s fiscal 2008 omnibus spending package and are primarily intended to assist ports in enhancing maritime domain awareness, enhance risk management capabilities to prevent, detect, respond to and recover from attacks involving improvised explosive devices as well as training and Transportation Worker Identification Credential implementation, Monteverde said more needs to be done on this front.
“Our priority would be to continue to allow $400 million [annually] and to get the cost share waiver for the program, because we are one of the few homeland security programs that actually have to pay a cost share,” said Monteverde.
This waiver would be key, as ports do not have the funding to contribute more than they are spending right now, and the AAPA says that a 25 percent cost-share for public agencies is a “significant economic disincentive” to make security enhancements and implement regional maritime security plans.
While the authorized PSG level is $400 million, it has only been allocated for that amount in the FY 2008 and 2009 budgets. In FY 2010, PSG received $300 million and $150 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Monteverde said she expects that amount to decrease for FY 2011 and come in at the $300 million to $350 million level.
Senator Cantwell’s Q&A at a Commerce Committee Hearing Regarding SAFE Port Act Reauthorization
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