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Is U.S. Government Doing Enough to Secure American Seaports


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By facilitating international trade, U.S. seaports play a significant role in shaping the country's

economic health. Over $2 trillion worth of cargo comes through U.S. ports each year and winds up on store shelves around the country. In 2005, American businesses imported roughly 11 million loaded cargo containers into the United States. The liner shipping industry transports on average about $1.5 billion worth of containerized goods through U.S. ports each day. In 2006, at projected trade growth rates, the industry will handle roughly 12 million U.S. import container loads. And these trade growth trends are expected to continue after 2006. But only a small percentage of the cargo that comes into the United States each year is physically inspected. Today, Homeland Security inspects roughly 5.5-6% of all inbound containers (over 500,000 containers/year), using either Xray or gamma ray technology (or both) or by physical devanning of the container.


The issue is whether the U.S. government is doing enough to protect our seaports from a potential terrorist attack.


Enhancing maritime security and protecting America's seaports from acts of terrorism and other federal crimes is a top priority for AAPA and U.S. port authorities. Much has been done since 9/11, but more is needed. Protecting America's ports is critical to our nation's economic growth and vitality, and is an integral part of homeland defense. Ports handle 99% of our overseas cargo by volume, enable the deployment of our military, and serve as departure points for millions of cruise passengers each year. - Kurt J. Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), testified on seaport security before the House Transportation and Infra­structure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.



Mr. Nagle said that while the federal Port Security Grant program has provided much-needed assistance to pay for seaport facility security, it still had several problems, including (1) an inadequate amount of Congressional appropriations; (2) limits on eligibility; (3) the port industry's concern about the Administration’s proposals to lump port security into the larger Transportation Infrastructure Protection program (TIP); and (4) the slow release of the federal funds. Limited port security funds have placed burdens on ports as security programs compete with general maintenance of facilities, channel dredging or port expansion projects, said Mr. Nagle. The biggest impact of these limited funds, however, is a delay in making security enhancements. Limited funds means slower progress.


Seaport Security Funding


Following 9/11, the federal government has implemented a multi-layered defense strategy to keep our ports safe and secure. New technologies have been deployed with additional technologies being developed and $630 million has been provided in grants to our largest ports, including $16.2 million to Baltimore; $32.7 million to Miami; $27.4 million to New Orleans, $43.7 million to New York/New Jersey; and $15.8 million to Philadelphia.


In 2005, the Department of Homeland Security decided to limit port security funding eligibility to 66 seaports based in part on the volume of cargo they handle. The Administration also sought to eliminate the Port Security Grant program during the last two years by lumping port security into a Targeted Infrastructure Protection Program. Ports would have to compete for limited funds with domestic security grants such as intercity rail and bus security.


Who Secures The Ports:


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP): CBP's mission is to prevent terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States by eliminating potential threats before they arrive at our borders and ports.


CBP uses intelligence and a risk-based strategy to screen information on 100% of cargo before it is loaded onto vessels destined for the United States. All cargo that is identified as high risk is inspected, either at the foreign port or upon arrival into the U.S.


Coast Guard: The Coast Guard routinely inspects and assesses the security of U.S. ports in accordance with the Maritime Transportation and Security Act and the Ports and Waterways Security Act. Every regulated U.S. port facility is required to establish and implement a comprehensive security plan that outlines procedures for controlling access to the facility, verifying credentials of port workers, inspecting cargo for tampering, designating security responsibilities, training, and reporting of all breaches of security or suspicious activity, among other security measures. Working closely with local port authorities and law enforcement agencies, the Coast Guard regularly reviews, approves, assesses and inspects these plans and facilities to ensure compliance. Congress must take a closer look at whether the Coast Guard has the inspection manpower to handle seaport growth and ensure our safety without negatively impacting efficiency.


Terminal Operator: Whether a person or a corporation, the terminal operator is responsible for operating its particular terminal within the port. The terminal operator is responsible for the area within the port that serves as a loading, unloading, or transfer point for the cargo. This includes storage and repair facilities and management offices. The cranes they use may be their own, or they may lease them from the port authority.


Port Authority: An entity of a local, state or national government that owns, manages and maintains the physical infrastructure of a port (seaport, airport or bus terminal) to include wharf, docks, piers, transit sheds, loading equipment and warehouses.


Ports often provide additional security for their facilities.


The role of the Port Authority is to facilitate and expand the movement of cargo through the port, provide facilities and services that are competitive, safe and commercially viable. The Port manages marine navigation and safety issues within port boundaries and develops marine-related businesses on the lands that it owns or manages.


A Layered Defense:


Screening and Inspection: CBP screens 100% of all cargo before it arrives in the U.S.- using intelligence and cutting edge technologies. CBP inspects all high-risk cargo.


CSI (Container Security Initiative): Enables CBP, in working with host government Customs Services, to examine high-risk maritime containerized cargo at foreign seaports, before they are loaded on board vessels destined for the United States. In addition to the current 42 foreign ports participating in CSI, many more ports are in the planning stages. By the end of 2006, the number is expected to grow to 50 ports, covering 90% of transpacific maritime containerized cargo shipped to the U.S.


24-Hour Rule: Under this requirement, manifest information must be provided 24 hours prior to the sea container being loaded onto the vessel in the foreign port. CBP may deny the loading of high-risk cargo while the vessel is still overseas.


C-TPAT (Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism): CBP created a public-private and international partnership with nearly 5,800 businesses (over 10,000 have applied) including most of the largest U.S. importers -- the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT). C-TPAT, CBP and partner companies are working together to improve baseline security standards for supply chain and container security. (We review the security practices of not only the company shipping the goods, but also the companies that provided them with any services.)


Use of Cutting-Edge Technology: CBP is currently utilizing large-scale X-ray and gamma ray machines and radiation detection devices to screen cargo. Presently, CBP operates over 680 radiation portal monitors at our nation's ports (including 181 radiation portal monitors at seaports), utilizes over 170 large scale non-intrusive inspection devices to examine cargo, and has issued 12,400 hand-held radiation detection devices. The President’s FY 2007 budget requests $157 million to secure next-generation detection equipment at our ports of entry. Also, over 600 canine detection teams, who are capable of identifying narcotics, bulk currency, human beings, explosives, agricultural pests, and chemical weapons are deployed at our ports of entry.



U.S. Recommended Standards for Container Security Initiative (CSI)


The Container Security Initiative consists of four core elements. These are: (1) establishing security criteria to identify high-risk containers; (2) pre-screening those containers identified as high-risk before they arrive at U.S. ports; (3) using technology to quickly pre-screen high-risk containers; and (4) developing and using smart and secure containers.


In order to be eligible to participate in CSI, the Member State’s Customs Administration and the seaport must meet the following three requirements:


The Customs Administration must be able to inspect cargo originating, transiting, exiting, or being transshipped through a country.

Non-intrusive inspectional (NII) equipment (including gamma or X-ray imaging capabilities) and radiation detection equipment must be available and utilized for conducting such inspections. This equipment is necessary in order to meet the objective of quickly screening containers without disrupting the flow of legitimate trade.

The seaport must have regular, direct, and substantial container traffic to ports in the United States.


As part of agreeing to participate in CSI, a Member State's Customs Administration and the seaport must also:


Commit to establishing a risk management system to identify potentially high-risk containers, and automating that system. This system should include a mechanism for validating threat assessments and targeting decisions and identifying best practices.

Commit to sharing critical data, intelligence, and risk management information with the United States Customs Service in order to do collaborative targeting, and developing an automated mechanism for these exchanges.

Conduct a thorough port assessment to ascertain vulnerable links in a port’s infrastructure and commit to resolving those vulnerabilities.

Commit to maintaining integrity programs to prevent lapses in employee integrity and to identify and combat breaches in integrity.


Complete Government Control of Seaports


Government-owned and operated ports face many problems. Lacking exposure to full commercial

competitive pressures, publicly owned and operated ports may have reduced incentive to operate

efficiently and are often subject to political interference. These public ports can absorb scarce funds

from local governments and drag down local economies. On the other hand, efficiently operated public

ports, such as the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, are often targeted by cities that want to

siphon off surplus funds.

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