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Shortchanging Port Security

Port Security is the best evidence of the administration's lack of seriousness in dealing with the threats terrorism poses to homeland security. Tomorrow, July 1st, the new International Ship and Port Security Code takes effect, under the aegis of the United Nations.

Unfortunately, as recently as 5/25/04 - a month ago - "[f]ewer than 6 percent of the world's seaports and ships adhere to United Nations rules aimed at preventing terrorist attacks, the head of the U.N.'s maritime agency said Tuesday." Moreover, "only 2 percent of containerized cargo entering the country. is physically inspected. And while advanced technology scanners have helped speed those inspections, just tracking the 200 million containers that move among the world’s top seaports each year is a major undertaking."

Ports are struggling to meet the new code, leaving us vulnerable and threatening trade disruptions.

Jim White, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration, thinks the government should help out.

[N]ow that plans have been drawn up, even larger ports are struggling to put the measures in place, said Jim White, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration. White said 'fierce' competition in his region had kept the Port of Baltimore from investing in new technologies.

'There's no way ports on the East Coast can absorb these costs,' he said.

White and other critics pointed to the $15 billion the airline industry received from Congress after Sept. 11, some of which was to improve security.

The administration has asked for $46 million for aid to the ports in the 2005 budget.

The Coast Guard put the total cost for implementing the regulations laid out by Congress in the 2002 Maritime Transportation Security Act at $7.5 billion over 10 years.
Luckily, the Heritage Foundation says the ports don't need it.
'The Coast Guard didn't say that [money] should come from the federal government,' Carafano said. 'It should come from the people who operate and use the port.'"
Port Security Update is a good resource on the issue.


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