October 23, 2003

Ports to Ridge: "Where's the money?"

The American Association of Port Authorities says it "commends" Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) on yesterday's final release of regulations to secure America's ports from terrorist acts. These final regulations call for port facilities to conduct vulnerability assessments, develop security plans and implement enhanced security measures.

The AAPA notes that public port agencies have invested millions of dollars to increase security and are committed to working closely with the Department of Homeland Security. It says the new regulations mark the first step toward implementation of the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) enacted into law in 2002 .

"The next steps," says the AAPA, "are further enhancing the cooperation and coordination and the funding to meet the law's intent. According to the USCG, implementing these regulations will cost $1.125 billion in the first year and $5.45 billion over ten years.

"The MTSA also calls for a grant program to help implement this heightened security," says the AAPA. "While Congress has appropriated $513.2 million since September 11, 2001, for port security grants, to continue to make progress, sustained funds are needed. For FY'05, AAPA urges a Federal funding level of $400 million for the Transportation Security Administration's port security grant program to cost-share with local port authorities and facility operators to make the enhancements required under these new regulations."

According to Kurt Nagle, President of AAPA, "America's ports are critical to our nation's defense and economic vitality. To ensure implementation of security measures, it's vital that the Federal government continue and augment its financial help to ports, as it has done with airports. Sustained funding for maritime security is essential to building a strong homeland defense. AAPA urges the Administration and Congress to provide $400 million in grant funding in FY'05.

"AAPA looks forward to continuing to partner with the Department of Homeland Security on the range of maritime security issues, including funding. To this end, the Association is actively seeking representation on the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee to give guidance to DHS from the public port industry perspective," noted Nagle.

The Coast Guard regulations also call for facilities to provide access control systems as part of their port facility plans. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is in the process of developing a Transportation Worker Identification Card in accordance with the MTSA. AAPA encourages DHS to move quickly in implementing this program to support security programs at ports.

The regulations are a culmination of several years of hard work and collaboration with the port industry on the best way to secure ports while keeping cargo flowing efficiently. Protecting America's ports is critical to the nation's economic growth and vitality. Ports handle 95% of our nation's overseas trade by volume, support the mobilization and deployment of U.S. Armed Forces, and serve as transit points for millions of cruise and ferry passengers.

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