U.S. SEAPORT SECURITY BILL READY FOR SENATE VOTE
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on a bill this week that would increase security in the country’s 361 seaports.
The bill, Port and Maritime Security Act of 2001, was spearheaded by Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, D-S.C., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and transportation Committee. Congress has stepped up its interest in seaport security since the Sept. 11th 'terrorist attacks.
Graham, who spoke at a press conference in Washington Friday, called the legislation “a proactive response” to potential terrorist attacks in seaports. “We’re not waiting for a seaport to be attacked.”
The legislation would create a Port Security Task Force within 90 days of enactment, and would include various representatives from the private sector as appointed by the Transportation Secretary. Similarly, local port security committees will be developed.
Adm. James Loy, commandant of the Coast Guard, said improvements in seaport security would be “collaborative” efforts among industry and federal, state and local law enforcement. The top 50 commercial seaports will be first order of focus, he said.
Most of the security improvements involve more efficient sharing of data between law enforcement agencies and the increase of timely data from the industry to target high-risk shipments.
For example, ocean carriers and non-vessel-operating common carriers would provide electronic cargo manifests to the federal government in advance of port of entry or clearance, and more data will be required prior to arrival at the first port of entry for in-bond shipments. Civil penalties of up to $25,000 a day for violations would also be imposed.
The World Shipping Council and the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America have worked closely with the Senate Commerce Committee on the development of the bill language pertaining to the shipping industry.
“We all have some responsibility in this bill and I think we’re convinced that we can meet these responsibilities,” said Jon Kent, Washington representative for the NCBFAA.
The bill requests the authorization of $322 million in fiscal 2002 to implement the new security measures.
Graham said the purpose of the bill was not to disrupt the flow of commerce. “I don’t think every container needs to be inspected, but we need to use law enforcement resources to determine which ones do,” he said.