FOR RELEASE - May 4, 2006
Contact: Aaron Ellis, firstname.lastname@example.org
American Association of Port Authorities
Phone: (202) 792-4033
ALEXANDRIA, VA (May 4, 2006) – The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) today applauded the 421-2 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Security and Accountability For Every (SAFE) Port Act (H.R. 4954), welcoming the legislation as a comprehensive plan to improve maritime cargo and facility security while maintaining an efficient flow of commerce through America’s ports.
“In the SAFE Port Act, Representatives Dan Lungren (R-CA) and Jane Harman (D-CA) have crafted an important bill that promises to enhance port and cargo security at home, strengthen the federal Port Security Grant program to help U.S. ports thwart terrorism at their marine facilities, and reduce the potential for contraband reaching our shores inside shipping containers,” said Kurt Nagle, AAPA’s president and CEO.
Noting that the SAFE Port Act is the House companion to the GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act (S. 2459) that the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs approved earlier this week, Mr. Nagle praised the authors and sponsors of both bills “for their courage and leadership at a time when America’s ports need them most.” The GreenLane bill, introduced by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Patty Murray (D-WA), is expected for a full Senate floor vote next week.
Just prior to the SAFE Port Act’s approval in the House, the Senate approved, 78-20, an Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2006 that would result in a major boost in security funding for America’s seaports. The bill increases funding for port security by nearly $1.25 billion, including additional funds for U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection programs, and $227 million more for the Port Security Grant program.
“Securing America’s seaports, which are essential for the nation’s economic growth, vitality and way of life, must be a top national priority,” said Mr. Nagle. “The additional funding for ports contained in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill for the rest of this year, along with port and cargo security legislation in the House and Senate for future years, provides heightened focus on protecting the cargo, people and critical infrastructure of our ports that we as a nation depend on.”
Referring back to today’s House vote, Mr. Nagle said that AAPA is especially supportive of the portion of the SAFE Port Act that directs $400 million a year in appropriations from Customs duties for the Port Security Grant program, clarifies who can apply for funding, and provides allowances for at least limited multi-year funding and personnel costs for port security grants.
“We’ve advocated for these changes ever since the Port Security Grant program was introduced after 9/11,” said Mr. Nagle. “The program has always been woefully underfunded, paying less than one-fifth of what ports have requested for reimbursements of eligible facility security investments. Just look at what airports have received since 9/11 in federal security assistance, and seaports—which handle 99 percent of our country’s overseas freight volumes—appear to be a poor stepchild in comparison. Dedicating a small portion of the Customs revenues already being collected on maritime commerce is an appropriate funding source.”
Like the existing Port Security Grant program, both the SAFE Port and GreenLane bills would maintain a risk-based approach in determining the grants. Unlike the existing program, however, both of these bills would ensure that any entity subject to an area maritime transportation security plan could compete for funding. AAPA strongly endorses this approach since the Department of Homeland Security limited eligibility to only 66 seaports in the latest round of port security grants.
In the area of cargo security, the SAFE Port and GreenLane bills also authorize and strengthen many on-going cargo security programs, such as Operation Safe Commerce, the Container Security Initiatives and C-TPAT (Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism). The bills also set an implementation date for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program, which AAPA strongly supports.