Lack of funds could threaten port security
American ports will move swiftly to ensure that they meet a January 1, 2004 deadline to submit security plans to the U.S. Coast Guard. But actually implementing the plans may be another matter, because of lack of funding.
The caution comes from the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA).
In a statement on Monday, AAPA said it welcomed the U.S. Coast Guard's release of six interim rules that implement maritime security requirements mandated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002.
Security has always been a top priority for U.S. ports, noted the AAPA, and since September 11, 2001, the port industry has spent many millions of dollars to adopt even tighter security measures.
"As mandated in the new Coast Guard regulations," says the AAPA statement, "ports will quickly initiate formal assessments to identify unresolved security needs, subsequently develop detailed security plans based on the assessments' conclusions, and submit their plans to the Coast Guard for review by January 1, 2004. Once the Coast Guard approves the plans, ports will be eager to set them in motion before the July 1, 2004, deadline. However, the plans' muscle may be challenged by a potential Achilles' heel --insufficient funding to move the plans off paper and into practice".
The AAPA citesCoast Guard estimates that ports will be required to invest $1.125 billion in the first year alone to implement necessary security measures, with a total of $5.399 billion needed for security over ten years.
Presently only $100 million is included for port security in the FY'04 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill recently approved by the House of Representatives. To enable ports to initiate their Coast Guard approved plans by July 1 of next year, AAPA supports the Senate's budget resolution calling for $610 million for the Transportation Security Administration's port security funding grant program in the FY'04 Homeland Security Appropriations bill.
Since June 2002, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has provided $337.3 million for port security funding, and the Office of Domestic Preparedness has provided $75 million. Another $105 million is expected to be released by DHS for port security later this summer. But before any of these funds were made available, an AAPA survey of U.S. ports conducted five months after the September 11, 2001, attacks revealed that ports had taken immediate and dramatic steps to tighten security at their own expense. Ports have continued to divert millions of dollars from their operating budgets to fund additional security measures.
"Clearly much has already been done to enhance port security," said Kurt Nagle, AAPA President. "But even more will need to be done in order to comply with the new Coast Guard regulations and ensure thorough, sound port security along the nation's 95,000 miles of shoreline. In many cases those expenses are beyond the ports' resources. But most importantly, addressing those security needs is something our nation can't afford to do without."