U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta, marking a significant milestone in the U.S. Department of Transportation
's (DOT) ongoing port security efforts, today announced the award of $92.3 million in grants to 51 ports located throughout the nation to enhance the security of ports and other facilities.
"Protecting seaports and port facilities against the threat of terrorism is imperative," said Secretary Mineta. "The terrorist attacks have resulted in a renewed focus on the security of our transportation systems and we at DOT are aggressively meeting these challenges on several fronts."
At a press conference near New York City's Staten Island Ferry, the Secretary was joined by New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Vice Chairman Charles Gargano, as well as a host of federal representatives including Rep. Bill Young (FL), U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thomas Collins and U.S. Maritime Administrator William Schubert.
Port security grants totaling $78 million will fund enhanced facility and operational security. In addition, $5 million is provided for security assessments that will enable port and terminals to evaluate vulnerabilities and identify mitigation strategies for their facilities, and $9.3 million will fund "proof-of-concept" projects, which will explore the use of new technology, such as electronic seals, vessel tracking, and electronic notification of vessel arrivals, to improve maritime security.
Congress provided funding for the grant program to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which is responsible for security in all modes of transportation. TSA, along with the Maritime Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard, reviewed project applications and is administering the grant program. The port security grants are just one of many steps the Department and its operating agencies are taking to address potential vulnerabilities in our nation's ports and waterways.
Immediately following the terrorist attacks, the Coast Guard enhanced security in the nation's territorial waters by tracking high interest vessels and requiring the submission of key information on people, cargo and vessels to ensure that they do not pose a security risk to the United States
. Additionally, the Coast Guard, in coordination with state and local agencies, has greatly increased its presence in the protection of critical bridges, port facilities, and other infrastructure adjacent to waterways and, when necessary, is escorting vessels containing high risk cargo and those traveling through security sensitive areas.
In an effort to reassess the security threats posed by cargo containers in light of the September 11 attacks, the Interagency Container Working Group, led by the Department and U.S. Customs, developed recommendations to improve the security of containers as they move through the intermodal transportation system. The Department's Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office recently augmented the group's efforts by its successful completion of a test of electronic seals, a new technology that enables regulatory agencies to determine if a container has been tampered with.
Further, the department is working through the International Maritime Organization to facilitate legitimate cross-border movements while preventing illegal or dangerous ones and is creating a nationwide transportation worker identification system.
President Bush's FY 2003 budget includes key funding for new port security initiatives including port vulnerability assessments, U.S. Coast Guard maritime
safety and security teams and port intelligence and investigative teams. Additionally, the Administration is working to enact maritime security legislation that will provide long-term tools for security planning and international coordination.