Where's the money?

Where's the money?

On the lower Mississippi River, more security means putting more patrol boats on the water, and training the law enforcement personnel to man them. That worries Joseph Accardo Jr., executive director of the Port of South Louisiana. The port, which stretches 54 miles between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La., has two boats that respond to emergencies such as fires, chemical spills and collisions.

To comply with proposed regulations under the Maritime Security Act of 2002, the port "will need a substantial expansion of security vessels, training of personnel and a command center," Accardo said. "That could very well cost $20 million that we don't have to spend."

Ports nationwide are trying to figure out how to comply with - and pay for improvements required by - new rules for port and maritime security. The rules took a major step toward completion when the Coast Guard published its proposal on July 1, with a 30-day comment period. The agency will publish final regulations in October. Ports and vessel operators will have until Dec. 31 to submit security plans, and they must implement them by July 1, 2004.

The proposed rules contain no surprises. "We knew what was coming down," Accardo said. "We have terminals up and down the river. We have about every configuration of dock that you can think of, and pipelines. There are innumerable problems. If you say it's a port's responsibility to provide security, it's a huge problem for us. We simply don't have the discretionary income."

South Louisiana is the largest port in the Western Hemisphere in terms of tonnage handled, including 70 million tons of export grain. It receives 4,000 oceangoing vessels and 100,000 barges a year. The port received a $624,000 federal port-security grant last year that paid for a vulnerability assessment by a private consultant.

The Coast Guard estimates that it will cost the maritime industry $1.5 billion through 2004 and $7.3 billion over the next 10 years to comply with the proposed rules. That's 15 percent more than the first-year estimates that were published last December, and 21 percent more than the 10-year estimates. The Coast Guard estimates that ports' share of the spending will be $226 million between now and December 2004, and $460 million over the next 10 years.

Other entities, including private terminals, also are spending heavily. The Coast Guard noted that many companies "already have spent a substantial amount of money and resources to upgrade and improve security," and those expenditures are not included in the cost estimates.

The American Association of Port Authorities continues to lobby for more grant funding. Last week, the AAPA urged members to write to senators in support of $600 million for new security grants in the fiscal 2004 budget for the Department of Homeland Security. The House has approved $100 million.

The new rules require port and terminal operators, vessels and offshore facilities to design and implement security plans. Coast Guard officials said the rules provide a "template" for developing individual security plans. This makes the rules adaptable to local conditions. However, the captain-of-the-port will have the final authority to approve security plans.