Helen Delich Bentley, former Chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission, called on Congress yesterday, to reconsider pending legislation that requiresprivate-sector shipping terminal owners and the nation¹s seaports to absorb
nearly all of the costs involved in a massive security overhaul of America¹s
"Congress gave the airports more money than they knew what to do with. Then
they turn around and give the maritime industry a boatload of unfunded
mandates, which are nothing more than taxes in my book, and a few million
here and there," said Bentley, who addressed the 51st Quadrennial
Convention of the International Longshoremen¹s Association at the Caribe
Hilton Hotel in San Juan
, Puerto Rico on July 22.
"This has nothing to do with patriotism. It¹s about the very different
treatment two key segments of America¹s transportation network received from
Congress," said Bentley, whose maritime background spans more than 50 years
in various capacities.
The Maritime Transportation Security Act, now working through Congress, is
"already 700 pages long. And it could be 2000 pages in length when it¹s
finished. This bill contains page after page of rules and regulations" soon
to be imposed on the maritime industry.
"It¹s really going to change the way facilities like the Port of Baltimore
do business," said Bentley, a maritime lobbyist and consultant. "They¹re
taking an enormous financial hit."
Bentley said the bill could cost as much as $15 billion to implement over 10
years. Official Congressional estimates are now $8 billion.
"That $8 billion is for the 700-page version they have now. Heaven help us
if it hits 2000 pages." Bentley said Congressional funding to date
represents "just one small drop in the bucket" of the legislation¹s total
"They just laid off thousands
of airport security personnel, the same
screeners authorities were in such a rush to hire," said Bentley. "Maybe
there¹s a lesson in that: Congress can be too overzealous about all this
Sen. Fritz Hollings, said Bentley, soon intends to introduce new legislation
which will establish joint operation centers at major U.S. ports designed to
unify America¹s intelligence gathering agencies and local police under one
roof, and thus improve inter-agency cooperation and communication. The bill
will also require U.S. ports to increase their present rate of container
screenings four-fold within two years.
Bentley, who was a member of the House Merchant Marine Committee for 10
years, said Congress also needs to address two other security concerns of
the maritime community.
America¹s effort to partner with authorities in foreign ports for security
purposes is being compromised by the understandable reluctance of foreign
nations to commit the necessary manpower and resources.
And a global shortage of suitable screening devices threatens the timely
delivery of international maritime cargo.