U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) will be honored as the American Association of Port Authorities' (AAPA) "Port Person
of the Year" at the port association's annual Washington People's Luncheon on April 1 in Washington, D.C.'s historic Willard Inter-Continental Hotel. AAPA - a trade organization representing the leading public ports in the Western Hemisphere - selected Sen. Byrd to receive its most prestigious annual award based on his strong advocacy in Congress for increasing cargo and facility security at America's seaports.
In addition to receiving the "Port Person" award, Sen. Byrd will serve as the luncheon's keynote speaker. During his remarks, he is expected to discuss the increasing security needs of America's ports and the port security agenda he has championed as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. As Chairman, Senator Byrd developed a sweeping homeland security package to help protect America's homeland from acts of terrorism. As part of that package, he created the Port Security Grant (PSG) program shortly after 9/11 and has been a strong advocate for the program ever since. Also as Chairman, he was successful in getting the initial $93.2 million PSG appropriation in the fiscal 2002 emergency spending bill.
"Senator Byrd can rightfully be called one of the ‘fathers' of the Port Security Grant program," said Kurt Nagle, AAPA's president and CEO. Mr. Nagle noted that, in selecting the U.S. Senate's most tenured member as the 2008 "Port Person," the port association's Executive Committee took into account his work in championing AAPA's goal of providing $400 million a year for port facility security grants
For the fiscal 2008 Appropriations bill, Senator Byrd included a funding level of $400 million for the PSG program to follow through on his commitment to safeguard the nation's ports.
"Senator Byrd's consistent effort to fund and secure our ports has been instrumental since Sept. 11, 2001, and AAPA sincerely appreciates his strong leadership and support," said Mr. Nagle.
Introducing the senator will be Port of Longview (Wash.) Executive Director Ken O'Hollaren, who is AAPA's 2008 Chairman of the Board. "Sen. Byrd's priorities include maintaining a strong national defense and strengthening our homeland security," Mr. O'Hollaren remarked. "I also give him accolades for steadfast support in maintaining and upgrading the nation's federal navigation system. He recognized early in his tenure that America's waterways and ports are the backbone of the transportation system and critically important to the nation's economic well-being. In his home state of West Virginia, he worked tirelessly and successfully for the improvement of navigation infrastructure and in Congress, worked just as hard for America's rivers and seaports."
Each year, AAPA presents its "Port Person of the Year" award to an individual who has made significant contributions to the port industry. Recent award recipients include: Panamanian President Martin Torrijos, 2007; U.S. Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-ME), 2006; U.S. Transporta¬tion Secretary Norman Mineta, 2005; U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), 2004; U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN), 2003; U.S. Trade Rep. Robert B. Zoellick, 2002; U.S. Sen. John Breaux (D-LA), 2001; and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), 2000.
The Washington People's Luncheon is the capstone event for AAPA's annual Spring Conference. Conference speakers will include Deputy U.S. Trade Representative John Veroneau, discussing trade agreements in the Western Hemisphere; Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson, discussing North American competitiveness in the global market; and a panel comprising National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission Vice Chairman Jack Schenedorf, Panamanian Embassy Commercial Counselor Diego Ferrer, and Mexico's Secretary of Communications and Transportation, César Patricio Reyes Roel, discussing the importance of making freight mobility a national priority in countries throughout the Americas. AAPA anticipates that more than 300 legislators, governmental staff mem¬bers and port industry leaders will take part in the two-day conference, which runs March 31-April 1.