10 Years Later, Port Security Needs Remain

By Bethann Rooney
Chair, AAPA Port Security Caucus

Prior to 9/11, security was not a top concern for most U.S. ports. That has changed. Enhancing maritime security and protecting our ports from acts of terrorism and other crime while ensuring the efficient flow of commerce remains a top priority for the members of the American Association of Port Authorities.

Security plans and assessments

The cost of meeting and maintaining the requirements of Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) regulations is neither insignificant, nor a onetime expense. Security equipment and systems must be put in place, operated, maintained and staffed. Because the foundation of a robust security program is a comprehensive risk assessment, use of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Maritime Security Risk Assessment Model should expand, to be used by all federal agencies that assess risk in the maritime environment, and, in an unclassified version, by regulated entities to conduct detailed risk assessments of their own operations using the Coast Guard criteria.

Port Security Grant Program

The key to enhancing and maintaining the security of ports is the Port Security Grant Program (PSPG). Our economy, our safety and our national defense depend largely on how well we can protect our seaports, and cuts in federal funding present significant challenges to the security of our ports. Its important that Congress provide full funding for the PSGP, at the authorized level of $400 million. Last year’s drastic cuts threaten the competitive position of U.S. ports. In addition the cost-sharing requirement should be eliminated for public agencies and their tenants. In an attempt to expedite grant spending, the Department of Homeland Security shortened the grant performance period, a move that will not expedite spending simply because the process doesn’t allow it. The grant performance period should be no less than three years. DHS’s proposal to merge all grant programs into a single program managed by states is not acceptable. Port security is a federal responsibility and it should remain at the federal level.

Radiation portal monitors

DHS should develop a plan to upgrade obsolete radiation portal monitors in ports so that the financially constrained Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are no longer put in the position of asking port operators to share the cost of the installation and maintenance of DHS owned, operated and controlled radiation portal monitors. As global trade rises, and container terminal capacity expands, it is vital that each facility have sufficient detection equipment so that the flow of legitimate commerce is not inhibited.

Transportation Workers Identification Credential

The majority of TWICs will expire in the next six to nine months. It’s imperative that the renewal and extension processes be convenient and efficient, with special emphasis on enrollment center locations, bulk payments and the availability of on-site enrollments and activations. When the awaited ‘card reader rule’ is published, ports must be given sufficient time to implement the requirements, and grant funding should be available.

Enhancements to MTSA

The MTSA’s goals would be better met with several modifications. Marine terminals should be provided with the equivalent of a ‘No Fly List’ to prevent unknowingly providing escort access tosomeone that the Transportation Security Administration has denied a TWIC®, and there should be a requirement to display the TWIC® similar to that required in the aviation industry. There should be minimum security standards for maritime support services including supply vessels, bunker providers and launch operators. To address oil pollution concerns there should be a designated Security Individual similar to a Qualified Individual as outlined in the Oil Pollution Control Act of 1990. Also, to lessen redundancy, there should be mutual recognition of Coast Guard-approved Facility and Vessel Security Plans by CBP for Tier Two status in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program.

AAPA and its members remain committed to doing their part to protect America. The nation is safer than it was 10 years ago, and with some legislative and regulatory adjustments our seaports’ power to protect will be greatly enhanced.

In addition to chairing the AAPA Port Security Caucus, Ms. Rooney is the port security manager for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and chairwoman of the Port of New York and New Jersey’s Area Maritime Security Committee. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the State University of New York Maritime College, and serves on advisory boards of a number of academic port security centers. She recently offered testimony before the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

To read the entire Winter 2012 issue of Seaports Magazine, click here.