S. 1214 Causes Concern For Ports

Tuesday, July 24, 2001
Ports Plea To Congress For Seaport Security Port Director Mike Leone told members of the Senate Commerce Committee during a July 24 hearing that the "Port and Maritime Security Act of 2001," S. 1214, introduced on July 20, holds concerns for ports. Mr. Leone, with the Massachusetts Port Authority, testified on behalf of the American Association of Port Authorities' (AAPA) U.S. members. "Addressing seaport security requires a strong commitment of Federal resources, a partnership between all parties involved and the flexibility to develop local security programs that consider the unique needs of each port," said Mr. Leone. "The Association recognizes the need for the port industry to continue to make improvements in seaport security. However, AAPA does not believe the adoption of a new Federal program is the best approach." In his written testimony, Mr. Leone said that despite attempts by the Commerce Committee to revise the legislation, AAPA still has several concerns. These include the bill's requirements with regard to the development of security programs and guidance, and with the redundancy of creating a new Federal program dealing with crime and security. The bill outlines specific requirements for port security programs that will give a priority to these areas rather than the true risks for each port identified in a required vulnerability assessment. AAPA believes that attempts to address seaport security at an individual port must be justified by a security assessment so that improvements are made based on a proven need. In addition, though the bill provides more funding than last year's version, making improvements to security, such as the ones listed in the bill, can be very costly. In fact, the Report of the Interagency Commission on Crime and Security at U.S. Seaports estimated it would cost one high-security port alone as much as $45 million to address the security issues outlined in the report. Mr. Leone also spoke about the redundancy of creating a new Federal program dealing with seaport security. He said, "security at seaports involves multiple state, local and Federal government jurisdictions as well as the private sector. AAPA does not believe that enactment of a new Federal program is the most effective means to increasing security. We believe increased coordination and information sharing among these various agencies and the private sector combined with additional resources for current programs is the appropriate method to address these important issues." Overall, S. 1214 is an improvement from last year's bill, S. 2965. It is narrower in focus (covering only 50 ports), provides for more partnership opportunities with the non-Federal sector, allows more flexibility to address the unique nature of ports, and provides more resources to the Federal government and the private sector to address crime. With regard to security officer training and international cooperation, AAPA commends the legislation for its recommendations. Security officer training is very important and AAPA encourages the development of an appropriate program for this purpose. When it comes to international cooperation, enhanced crime and security information exchange provides an opportunity to reduce the flow of drugs and other illegal shipments. The bill appropriately gives the Maritime Administration authority to address this. Ports do not condone illegal acts of any kind taking place at public ports. Ports have invested significant resources in improving security at seaports to prevent seaport crime from occurring. In addition to providing infrastructure, ports work with local and Federal authorities to eliminate criminal activities. Security at seaports involves multiple state, local and Federal government jurisdictions as well as the private sector. The Federal government plays a large role in maintaining security at international borders; agencies with law enforcement responsibilities at seaports include U.S. Customs, Coast Guard, Department of Agriculture, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
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