Sen. Collins Takes Steps to Strengthen U.S. Seaports Against Terrorist Attacks

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins
(R-ME) today joined a group of bipartisan senators in cosponsoring legislation aimed at strengthening America’s seaports against terrorist attacks.

“Maine has 3,500 miles of coastline and our seaports are potential targets of terrorist attacks,” said Senator Collins, whose committee has jurisdiction over homeland security issues. “The legislation I am supporting will help keep our seaports safe by deterring attacks before they occur.”

Portland, Maine is the largest foreign inbound transit port in the United States in terms of tonnage and is among the nation’s top 10 ports in total tonnage.

The legislation, Reducing Crime and Terrorism at America’s Seaports Act of 2003 (S. 1587), would make it a crime to use a vessel to smuggle terrorists or dangerous materials into the United States, impose stiff criminal penalties for providing false information to a federal law enforcement officer at a port or on a vessel, and double the sentence of anyone who fraudulently gains access to a seaport.

Sponsored by Sens. Joe Biden (D-DE) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), the bill also would prohibit the carrying of a dangerous weapon at a seaport or on board a vessel and make it a federal offense to commit a violent assault on anyone at a maritime facility; increase penalties for smugglers who misrepresent illicit cargo; require the reporting of cargo theft offenses; and instruct the Attorney General to create a government-only database containing the reported information.

Senator Collins is co-chair of the Congressional Port Security Caucus, which focuses on the security needs of the nation’s ports. She also held hearings earlier this year to examine the federal government’s efforts to ensure that the millions of cargo containers entering the United States each year are not used as weapons of terrorism.