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News Release
FOR RELEASE - September 13, 2005
Contact: Aaron Ellis, aellis@aapa-ports.org
703-684-5700

American Association of Port Authorities
1010 Duke Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (703) 684-5700
www.aapa-ports.org

U.S. Public Ports Welcome Much Needed Security Funds

ALEXANDRIA, VA  (September 13, 2005) – The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), the organization representing public ports throughout the Western Hemisphere, welcomes the announcement today by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that it will provide $141.97 million in federal grants to help 36 U.S. port areas address physical security enhancements at their facilities.

The majority of this round’s grant funds went to the public sector, including seaports.  According to a DHS press release, matching funds from the private sector totaled $33 million, leaving a projected 77 percent of the grant monies for public facilities.

Funds are also being provided through this program for U.S.-inspected passenger vessels and ferries.  This year, the Port Security Grant program’s focus was on what DHS determined to be the highest risk ports, with a priority on addressing threats from explosives and non-conventional threats that would cause major disruption to commerce and significant loss of life.  Only 66 port areas were deemed “eligible” to apply for this round, leaving many ports to fend for themselves. 

Hurricane Katrina has helped bring the nation’s attention to the critical role that seaports play in handling trade, ranging from imported oil, coffee and steel, to exports of corn, soybeans and wheat.   Communities and ports are now working with responsive agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard, Maritime Administration, Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to quickly get affected waterways and marine facilities operational again. While Katrina was a natural disaster, the Port Security Grant program helps seaports prevent and respond to catastrophic terrorist events which could cause similar or greater damage and possibly close targeted ports long-term.

According to DHS, funds will be held in reserve for ports impacted by Katrina until proposed security projects are ready to be implemented.

This is the fifth time that DHS has released port security grant funds since initiating the program after Sept. 11, 2001.  Including this most recent announcement, DHS has given port facilities and vessels approximately $707 million in security grants, including $75 million from DHS’ Urban Area Security Initiative program.  However, according to AAPA President/CEO Kurt Nagle, the need is much greater.

“DHS limited this latest round of grants to only 66 seaports.  Even though this is a smaller group of eligible ports than in previous rounds, less than one-third of the dollar amount they requested was awarded,” said Nagle.  “Sixty-nine percent of what eligible ports said they need to safeguard their facilities couldn’t be awarded because the program is so underfunded.”

Nagle is also critical of the way DHS narrowed port eligibility in this latest round of security grants.  He said terrorists might view the list of ineligible ports as potentially easier targets than those eligible for grant money.  “We need to avoid even the perception that there’s a soft underbelly of underprotected ports that could make our country more vulnerable to terrorism.”

To better protect ports against acts of terror, AAPA has called for a funding level of $400 million a year to harden security at all seaports that need to comply with the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA).  Congress is currently debating the final agreement on the Fiscal Year 2006 Department of Homeland Security budget, which will provide funds for the Port Security Grant program’s sixth round.  AAPA is urging Congress to support the Senate’s appropriation recommendation of $200 million, rather than the House’s recommendation of $150 million. 

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