Collins, Lieberman Praise DHS for New Program on Port Security

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Susan Collins, R.-Me., and Ranking Member Senator Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., expressed support for the Secure Freight Initiative announced Thursday by the Department of Homeland Security. The initiative is a significant step forward in fulfilling provisions of the SAFE Port Act, coauthored by Senator Collins and Senator Lieberman and signed into law on October 13, 2006.

The first phase of the Secure Freight Initiative calls for a program that will inspect all cargo bound to the U.S. from the ports of Cortes, Honduras; Southampton, U.K.; and Qasim, Pakistan, thereby fulfilling a critical mandate of the SAFE Port Act, which requires the creation of a pilot program to inspect 100% of containers entering the U.S. from at least three foreign ports within the next year. The Secure Freight Initiative will also inspect a significant portion, though not all containers, at an additional three ports, including one of the world’s largest ports in Singapore. It also marks the first time all cargo shipped through an intermediary port will be inspected before it reaches the United States. A private pilot program in Hong Kong attempted to inspect all containers originating in Hong Kong but it did not capture containers shipped through Hong Kong from other ports.

“This is a positive step forward to better ensure that containers coming from foreign ports do not turn out to be Trojan Horses, possibly carrying biological, nuclear, or other weapons of mass destruction, or even terrorists themselves trying to sneak into the U.S. I am pleased that DHS acted quickly to meet the cargo scanning requirements established by our port security legislation that was signed into law in October,” said Senator Collins. “The first phase of this program will provide valuable lessons on how new scanning technology can be used to further secure the international cargo system and protect U.S. ports from being used as targets or gateways for terrorist attacks,” Collins said.

“Port security is a key component of our national security agenda, and I embrace this pilot program as a significant, first step toward better protection for our ports and communities. I believe this program will help DHS pave the way for a global cargo security inspection system and help the Department develop similar programs to improve security with cargo screening in our rail and air transport systems,” Lieberman said. “This is an important development for port security.”

Collins and Lieberman expressed regret, however, that the initiative announced by DHS today was not accompanied by a timeline for applying the Secure Freight Initiative to other modes of transportation, such as freight rail and air cargo.