Lieberman Says New Law Should Increase Security of Connecticut Ports

Flanked by Coast Guard officers and the Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Senator Joe Lieberman, D-Conn, Friday said that the security of Connecticut’s seaports should improve under legislation recently passed by Congress and signed into law.

“After 9/11, we realized we needed to strengthen our security, but without inflicting upon ourselves the precise economic chaos terrorists have in mind,” Lieberman said. “The SAFE Port Act addresses these challenges comprehensively. This bill will help protect our ports from a direct attack on their facilities, while also making it harder for terrorists to smuggle weapons of mass destruction through our ports to be used in an attack somewhere else in the country by increasing the number of inspections performed overseas.”

Lieberman appeared in New London with Senator Susan Collins, R-Me., with whom he worked on the SAFE Port Act, which passed Congress September 29, 2006, and was signed into law on October 13, 2006. Also appearing at the press conference were Coast Guard Commander John Plunkett, who oversees the Connecticut, Long Island, and Long Island Sound Sector, and Coast Guard Captain Robert Durfey, an officer assigned to the Coast Guard’s First District command, which is responsible for protecting all of New England.

The SAFE Port Act will ensure all Connecticut ports are able to apply for homeland security grants, whereas in the past the Department of Homeland Security had restricted applications to only the nation’s largest ports. The law also provides $400 million specifically for port security grants; establishes a pilot program to inspect 100 percent of all containers bound for the U.S. from three foreign ports within one year, moving us closer towards the goal of inspecting all containers entering the U.S. through our ports; requires DHS to deploy radiation detection equipment at each of the 22 largest U.S. seaports, covering 98% of all cargo shipped to the U.S., by the end of 2007; and gives the Coast Guard the authority to perform unannounced inspections of maritime facilities as necessary.

“Senator Collins and I have worked together on port security legislation since 2004, because we both know that port security is the key to protecting not just our physical safety but our economic security as well,” Lieberman said.

The port of New Haven is home to many large petroleum and energy terminals, and is a gateway for fuel and energy products for all of New England. Bridgeport and New London are homes to major passenger ferry services and are busy commercial ports.

“This is the kind of progress we can make on crucial national challenges when we put the safety and welfare of our nation ahead of party politics and partisan bickering,” Lieberman said.