Senate Considers Collins-Murray Port Security Legislation

Washington, D.C. – Groundbreaking bipartisan cargo security legislation coauthored by Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) is scheduled for continued Senate floor consideration today. An agreement reached between the Senate Homeland Security Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee retains the provisions outlined in the Collins GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act to implement needed security reforms at our nation’s seaports. Entitled the Port Security Improvement Act, the measure under consideration today would establish improved cargo screening standards, provide incentives to importers to enhance their security measures and implement a framework to ensure the successful resumption of shipping in the event of a terrorist attack.

“The link between maritime security and our national security is evident. This legislation will provide the structure and the resources needed to better protect the American people from attack through seaports, which are both vulnerable points of entry and vital centers of economic activity. My bill is a comprehensive approach that addresses all major aspects of maritime cargo security,” said Senator Collins. “Five years after the attacks of 9/11, it is clear that some DHS initiatives have languished. This legislation would establish priorities for the critical DHS programs necessary to improve maritime cargo security and set clear timelines to ensure steady progress on their development and expansion.”

The urgent need for enhanced port security has been expressed by the directors of many major U.S. ports, including Portland, Maine, as well as Department of Homeland Security officials. Recent events such as the Dubai Ports World contract and continued incidents of Chinese nationals arriving undetected at U.S. ports in sealed cargo containers have underscored the flaws in our current maritime security structure.

Approximately 95 percent of our nation’s overseas 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.
• 100 Percent Scanning Pilot Program at three foreign ports to test the practicality and effectiveness of systems designed to scan 100 percent of cargo. The scanning systems must couple non-nutritive imaging and radiation detection equipment.
• Minimum security standards for all cargo containers entering the U.S. and requirements that strengthen current cargo security programs.
• 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 $400 million for port security grants.