Safe Port Act Needed to Keep Ports Safe, Economy Moving

By Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-ME)
Ranking Member and Former Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

Two years ago, a radioactive container packed in Saudi Arabia arrived in the bustling seaport of Genoa, Italy, according to last November’s edition of Wired. The port in Genoa is similar to some of the 361 seaports in the U.S.: it is nestled within a city of more than 600,000 people, most living within a mile of the water, and the port receives just shy of a million containers per year. For a week, the radioactive container sat unnoticed and undetected, according to the magazine.

The source of the radiation was buried in a haystack of more than 40,000 pounds of metal. An Italian inspector finally identified the radiation coming from the box during a routine screening. Had he stayed next to the container, he would have exceeded the maximum allowable radiation exposure for nuclear personnel in the U.S. for an entire year, in just two hours.

After several anxious days, the source of the radiation was identified, fortunately, as a small metal rod of Cobalt-60 which is frequently used in medical devices. It took a year to finally remove the container from the port.

Could this happen in the U.S.? We have to remain vigilant, but since the end of 2007, all inbound cargo containers at America’s busiest ports are expected to be scanned for radioactive materials as required by the SAFE Port Act, bipartisan legislation I authored with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). It is time to renew the expiring law and build upon its comprehensive approach to improve maritime cargo security.

The new Collins-Murray bill builds on the lessons of the 9/11 Commission, Government Accountability Office investigations, and the experience of the past five years in order to protect our ports, and the vital role they play this best canadian pharmacies better Flannel everyday it.

in our economy, against a terrorist attack.

The updated legislation would extend essential port security programs and authorize the resources to execute them. The bill will also allow Secretary Napolitano to waive the requirement for 100 percent scanning of containers at overseas ports so long as she could certify that the necessary security measures are in place. In the meantime, the bill supports risk-based methods to screen all cargo through the Automated Targeting System in an effort to identity and inspect high-risk cargo overseas.

The bill provides training and information sharing and accountability enhancements for the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program to strengthen the security of international cargosupply chains beginning at the point of origin. The bill also provides legal immunity protection for those who, in good faith, report suspicious behavior on U.S. waterways.

Coming from commodity maritime cargo. Unlike before 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security now has a contingency plan to resume trade immediately after an attack, to limit the disruption to ports and America’s economy. It must be done quickly. To keep our ports safe and our economy moving, the time is now to pass the updated SAFE port act.

Susan M. Collins (R-ME) was first elected to represent Maine in the U.S. Senate in 1996. She is a key leader in Congress, with a record of legislative accomplishments in homeland security, national defense, disaster response, education, business development and health care. Sen. Collins was AAPA’s Port Person of the Year in 2006. On July 12, 2012, Sen. Collins cast her 5,000th consecutive roll call vote. She has never missed a roll call vote during her entire time in the U.S. Senate.

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