Port group keeps focus on underfunding of port security
The U.S. government continues to woefully underfund security mandates instituted for ports, said Jay Grant, director of the Port Security Council, repeating a common refrain by ports and port users during the past two years.
Although the U.S. Coast Guard estimates billions of dollars will be necessary to meet congressional and international port security mandates, federal grants have totaled slightly more than $500 million in the last three years. The fiscal 2005 Homeland Security appropriations bill includes about $125 million for port security grants, about one-third of the $400 million port groups say they need as a minimum to meet the standards.
U.S. seaports and related industries “have been virtually cast adrift by the federal government when it comes to homeland security spending,” Grant said at a Homeland Security water trades advisory committee meeting at George Mason University’s Arlington, Va., according to a group news release. “The current ‘Band-Aid approach’ to homeland security spending has to come to an end — the country cannot afford it,” he said.
Experts do not anticipate a shift in grant levels because the Bush administration has been adamant that the private sector and local governments own port facilities and should bear the greatest burden to protect their assets.
The Port Security Council was created in May by the American Association of Port Authorities, the Chamber of Shipping of America, the Waterfront Coalition and others to address terrorist threats to seaports.
Grant said the council will lobby Congress to shift its focus from costly mandates for security hardware and personnel to permit more investment in tracking technology that can improve cargo shipping efficiency at the same time.