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Marine Log

June 25, 2008

Lautenberg and Menendez introduce port security legislation

Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) have introduced the Port Authority Implementation Act of 2008 (S.3174).

The bill could be an important indicator of the likely direction of port security policy in any post-Bush Democratic Administration.

"It's been seven years since 9/11 and President Bush has still not secured our ports. Port security is essential to protect our residents from terrorist attack, and if this Administration won't adequately protect us, we will," Senator Lautenberg said, flanked by Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Officials at a gathering to announce the bill. "This bill would pick up where the Bush Administration is leaving off by setting minimum security standards for every container coming into our country and helping ensure port security grants are awarded based on risk."

The bill is based in part on the December 2006 report of a PANYNJ task force that assessed port security and offered a number of recommendations.

"Because the stakes are so high and the margin of error is so low, we need to do everything in our power and spare no expense to keep our ports safe and prevent terrorists from destroying our commerce and disrupting our lives," said Senator Menendez. "This bill will fill critical gaps by enhancing and expanding our security efforts to bring even greater levels of scrutiny and accountability to port security."

Port Authority Chairman Tony Coscia said, "Federal efforts to secure the nation's transportation systems have not treated the security threat at our nation's ports with due seriousness. The Senators' bill, which builds on the recommendations of our Task Force, recognizes the critical importance of introducing uniform federal standards for all ports in the country. We thank Senator Lautenberg and Senator Menendez for their leadership and urge passage of this legislation to secure the nation's 361 port facilities."

The Senators' bill would require cargo be monitored from the moment it is packed into containers abroad until it reaches its destination in the United States. Containers that do not meet the standards would be refused entry into the country.

The bill also calls for minimum security standards for essential port services such as supply and launch vessels, and bunker and fuel deliveries, which are largely unregulated.

The bill comes after a hearing this month in the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security, which Lautenberg chairs.

During the hearing, Bush Administration officials admitted they would be unable to meet a 2012 deadline to scan all containers coming into America's ports.

Key provisions of the Port Authority Implementation Act of 2008 (S.3174) include:

  • Mandatory Container Security Standards: Required for international cargo containers entering the U.S. Current Bush Administration security policy relies on shippers taking voluntary measures to improve security. Container shipments that fail to meet these new minimum standards will be denied entry into the U.S.

  • Regional Response and Recovery Plans: Required for each port, so that there is a process to restore order to the commerce in our region after a major incident or disruption occurs.

  • Standardized Risk Assessment Tools: Requires the use of a standardized risk assessment tool so that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can more accurately determine risks to ports and surrounding communities and businessesareas thereof, and port security grants can be prioritized accordingly.

  • Authorizes Law Enforcement to Confiscate Falsified IDs: Provides authority for any federal, state or local law enforcement official to confiscate a suspected fraudulent or otherwise tampered with federal Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) at locations where there is no Coast Guard presence (such as the Port Authority's airports, bridges and tunnels).

  • Designated Security Officials on Foreign Ships: Requires each foreign vessel entering a U.S. port to designate a "Security Individual" who would be responsible for responding to a transportation security incident while it is in docked at a U.S. port, on behalf of the ship's owner/operator.

  • Includes Unregulated Ships in Federal Security Regime: Brings ships that are largely unregulated today, such as those used in essential port services like such as supply vessels, launch vessels, and bunker and fuel delivery ships, under federal security requirements. These ships have been identified to pose some a risk to maritime security.

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