“America’s seaports, large and small, are on the front lines in the war against terror and are vital to our economy at all levels.”
Those remarks, delivered by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, give an accurate description of what is at stake in the matter of port security. Consider the following:
- Approximately 95 percent of our nation’s trade, or $1 trillion, enters or leaves through 36 of the nation’s largest seaports. Vessels make 55,000 calls a year through our ports.
- Those vessels carry 800 million tons of goods.
- Just as the attacks of 9/11 grounded all commercial flights, an assault on one port could result in the closure of all ports for a time, causing severe economic damage.
- For years, criminals have used cargo containers to smuggle narcotics, firearms and people into the United States.
- While the last several years have seen significant initiatives to enhance the security of both domestic and international maritime interests, port security remains chronically underfunded. According to recent statistics, for every $19 that the federal government allots for aviation, it spends only $1 on port security.
The MTD strongly believes that more funds need to be deployed to port security, and that there must be a minimum, dedicated source of funding. Moreover, it believes that port security should not be lumped into spending for other modes of transportation.
The MTD supports efforts to enhance the U.S. Coast Guard’s aging fleet of auxiliary cutters and legislation that would enhance supply-chain security. At a minimum, America needs to have more people and equipment at foreign ports, where the cargo originates.
The MTD also has been monitoring developments relating to the implementation of a Transportation Worker Identification Credential System (TWIC). It wants to ensure that the rights of maritime workers are balanced with enhanced port security and that there be an adequate review process to determine a worker’s status.