15 November 2002
Source: http://usinfo.state.gov/cgi-bin/washfile/display.pl?p=/products/washfile/latest&f=02111403.clt&t=/products/washfile/newsitem.shtml

US Department of State
International Information Programs

Washington File

14 November 2002

Senate Passes Legislation to Strengthen Maritime Security

(Bill calls for anti-terrorist measures in U.S. and foreign ports)
By Andrzej Zwaniecki
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The Senate has approved a comprehensive bill aimed at
improving security at U.S. seaports and preventing terrorists from
using the maritime transportation system to mount attacks on the
United States.

Passed November 14, the Maritime Transportation and Security Act
contains measures intended to protect U.S. ports and high-risk
seashore facilities against possible terrorist attacks and ensure
cargo security at sea and in foreign ports while keeping the flow of
trade uninterrupted.

"With the legislation, we are, for the first time, creating a national
system for securing our maritime borders," said Senator Ernest
Hollings, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and
a co-sponsor of the bill.

The House of Representatives was expected to pass the bill later
November 14, clearing it for signature by President Bush.

Final compromise legislation approved by House and Senate conferees
would authorize the Transportation Department to conduct vulnerability
assessments of 361 commercial U.S. ports in order to establish
national and local maritime transportation security plans designed to
prevent or deter terrorist attacks.

It would provide grants to help finance port security improvements and
would authorize $90 million over six years for research and
development to improve the ability of the U.S. Customs Service to
identify and inspect high-risk cargo. While 95 percent of U.S.
international trade -- by tonnage -- goes through seaports, only 2
percent of the six million cargo containers that enter U.S. ports each
year are inspected, according to news reports.

The legislation would require the Transportation Department to assess
security and anti-terrorist measures also at foreign ports from which
high volumes of cargo heading for U.S. destinations originates and at
those that pose a high terrorism risk. In case the department finds
that a foreign port lacks effective anti-terrorism safeguards, it
would have to suggest necessary improvements to the government of a
country where the port is located and offer related security training
to port authorities. Under the measure, ships coming from a foreign
port that fails to meet security standards could be barred from
entering U.S. ports. Additionally, the legislation calls for
establishing a maritime intelligence system to help identify high-risk
ships before they enter U.S. ports.

The bill would make the Transportation Department responsible for
creating a national transportation security card that would allow
eligible port workers, mariners and truck drivers access to port and
ship secure areas. And the department would have to develop a "smart"
container cargo seal that would reveal tampering with cargo contents.

The legislation would extend the Coast Guard's jurisdiction over cargo
vessels from three to 12 miles offshore and provide statutory
authority to existing Coast Guard programs, including anti-terrorist
rapid-response teams and sea marshals. These teams can respond to
terrorist threats against ships, ports and cargo in U.S. waters. Sea
marshals or armed Coast Guard agents are authorized to board vessels
entering U.S. ports to ensure that they are not being hijacked or used
in other ways by terrorists.

The bill would reauthorize spending by the U.S. Coast Guard of $6,000
million for the fiscal year that began October 1, $1,000 million more
than in the previous year.

The Senate passed its version of the port security measure in December
2001, and the House approved its version in June. But a compromise
measure emerged only recently from conference committee where it was
stalled for almost five months by Republicans opposed to a proposed
new cargo user fee intended to pay $1,200 million of the port security

Because the final bill dropped the cargo user fee, Hollings said, "we
are going to have to address a way to pay for it."

The bill would give the administration six months to devise a plan to
fund the bill's port security mandates.

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