Some Argue for Port Security Enhancements

Thursday, February 09, 2006
According to the Washington Times, the U.S. port industry is facing unprecedented challenges that should concern American consumers, as well as the president and Congress. If unaddressed, these challenges could weaken the nation's supply chain and economic vitality. With international trade growing, ports are struggling to keep up with demands on their facilities. With today's cargo volume level expected to at least double by 2020, adequate port infrastructure is a growing concern. Federal law mandating port security enhancements set up a program in 2002 to help protect port facilities from terrorist attack. This program has been dramatically under-funded, leaving ports no choice but to pay the lopsided balance themselves to ensure that their facilities are safe and secure -- not only for the nearly 5 million Americans who earn their livelihoods in the maritime industry, but also for the urban communities near commercial seaports and for the well-being of the nation's economy, in which ports and goods movement play a critical role. The problem is, this has required ports to divert limited funds away from expanding port infrastructure in order to pay for hardening their facilities against terrorism. While ports must remain safe and secure in the face of terrorist threats, they also must remain accessible. The federal government collects a fee on imports and domestic cargo to maintain these navigation channels, but the government spends far less on maintaining those channels than it collects each year. As a result, federal navigation channels at ports are not being adequately maintained, while the trust fund has an approximately $3 billion surplus that continues to grow annually. The U.S. public port industry has urged the federal government to spend at least $400 million per year on port facility security. (Source: Washington Times)
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