Port security legislation authored by Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and cosponsored by Ranking Committee Member Joe Lieberman (D-CT), passed the Committee today and is awaiting consideration by the full Senate. Entitled the GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act, the bill would implement needed security reforms at our nation’s seaports, including establishing improved cargo screening standards, providing incentives to importers to enhance their security measures and ensuring the successful resumption of shipping in the event of a terrorist attack. Similar legislation, modeled after the Murray-Collins legislation, recently passed a House panel.
“For years we’ve known that our ports are vulnerable, and even the 9/11 Commission identified them as a possible target for terrorists. But for too long, the Administration has dragged its feet on the issues of cargo and port security. This consistently dismissive position is unacceptable. The American people need to know that our ports are secure and the cargo entering our country is safe, no matter whose hands it may have passed through,” Senator Murray said. “This is precisely why Senator Collins and I introduced the GreenLane Act. I applaud Committee passage of our legislation and I look forward to bringing it to the floor of the Senate where we can move ahead and ensure the safety of our residents and the strength of our economy.”
“For years, experts have told me and members of the committee, that our ports are one of our biggest vulnerabilities. This legislation helps address this vulnerability to ensure that our ports are safer. Our bill will help build a coordinated approach to maritime and port security across all levels of government and with our overseas trading partners. In addition to improving our nation’s security, it will expedite trade with foreign governments and businesses, and provide financial assistance to our ports as they strive to strengthen their terrorism prevention and response effort,” said Senator Collins. “We cannot continue on rely on luck, or even alert crane operators, to provide for the security of our seaports, our nation, and our people. The enactment of these reforms will ensure that cargo containers entering our ports do not become the Trojan horse of the 21st century.”
Senator Lieberman said, “The GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act serves as another building block in our effort to protect our national and economic security before terrorists strike. Prior to 9-11, the system for international trade was predicated on efficiency – moving millions of tons of goodS across our borders or through our ports every day. Since then, we’ve been working to inject security into that equation without causing the very economic harms terrorists have in mind. Programs like the Container Security Initiative and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism have provided a foundation for a layered security system at our ports and throughout the global supply chain. The GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act builds on that foundation.”
The Committee held a hearing on The GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act in April, in which the directors of both the Portland, Maine, and Seattle, Washington, ports departments voiced the urgent need for enhanced security at our seaports. These sentiments were echoed by officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Commerce. The hearing came at the heels of the second incident in which Chinese nationals arrived undetected at a U.S. port in a sealed cargo container. This event, as well as the Dubai Ports World contract, underscores the flaws in our current maritime security structure and the need for comprehensive legislation to address these concerns.
Approximately 95 percent of our nation’s trade, worth nearly $1 trillion, enters or leaves through our seaports. Foreign vessels carry the bulk of the approximately 800 million tons of goods that come into our country. In fiscal year 2005 alone, more than eleven million containers arrived on American soil by sea and this number is growing at a rate of over 10 percent a year. While this figure represents robust trade, it also signals a considerable risk to our nation’s security.
Specifically, the bill would:
· Protect Americans by making our cargo and seaports more secure – mitigating a dangerous vulnerability.
· Help prevent a lengthy shutdown of America’s seaports in the event of an incident – protecting America’s economy from severe disruption.
· Provide layered security at every step of the supply chain while keeping it efficient.
· Push the borders out so we can focus our limited resources on suspect cargo.
The bill improves security at America’s ports by establishing:
· The GreenLane, comprised of supply chain participants who voluntarily meet the highest level of security, allows our security services to better identify and respond to potential threats and provides real incentives to importers to enhance their supply chain security measures.
· Minimum security standards for all cargo containers entering the U.S. and requirements that strengthen current cargo security programs.
· The Office of Cargo Security Policy to ensure accountability and coordination of cargo security policies, procedures & regulations at the Department of Homeland Security and with other agencies.
· Joint Operations Centers to ensure a coordinated, measured response and the resumption and flow of commerce in the event of an incident or heightened national security threat level.
· The Act also authorizes $835 million for Port Security Grants, the Container Security Initiative and C-TPAT generated through the collection of customs fees.