House considers new port security bill

House considers new port security bill

WASHINGTON -- House Democrats on Wednesday planned to introduce new legislation earmarking $537 million for port-security grants in fiscal 2005, but avoids imposing a tax or fee to pay for them.

The Secure Containers from Overseas And Seaports from Terrorism Act (Secure COAST Act), sponsored by Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., also would impose tight deadlines on the Department of Homeland Security to implement port and vessel security programs.

The bill's main points include:

-- Completion of all verifications for Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism participants by Sept. 30, 2005.

-- Installation of radiation detectors at all ports by the same date. The bill allows $297 million for the detectors.

-- Completion of plans for an online long-range vessel tracking system by December 2004.

-- Completion of the Marine Transportation System security plan within 180 days of enactment of the bill.

-- Customs and Border Protection must integrate cargo inspection equipment and make a staffing plan to provide adequate inspection personnel.

-- Imported cargo left unclaimed more than seven days must be move to a general-order warehouse or face a fine of $5,000 per bill of lading.

The bill is one of a series that Democrats on the House Select Committee on Homeland Security are offering, following up on points they make in a white paper, "Making America Safer: Closing the Security Gap."

Democrats filed an air-security bill last week, and may introduce legislation covering railroads later this week.