Billing Port Security

Billing Port Security

Copyright 2003, Traffic World, Inc.

U.S. ports say new federal regulations will cost them billions of dollars. But after several months of digesting the gist of the rules, the sticker shock is wearing off.

Like many new mode-specific transportation security rules, the maritime regulations were drafted with industry input. Although it is not complaining that the final rules will be too onerous for the industry to enact, the American Association of Port Authorities nevertheless lamented what it sees as insufficient government help in paying for port security.

"America''s ports are critical to our nation''s defense and economic vitality," AAPA President Kurt Nagle said. "To ensure implementation of security measures, it''s vital that the federal government continue and augment its financial help to ports, as it has done with airports."

AAPA, which represents 150 port authorities in the Americas, called for $400 million from the federal government to help pay for implementing the new security requirements. Since the September 11 terrorist attacks focused the nation''s attention on transportation security, Congress has allotted $513.2 million to meet port security needs.

Although ports agree their security needs beefing up, they know the federal requirements will cost them money. The new rules require ports to assess their vulnerabilities, develop and file security plans and enact more stringent security measures. Ports also will be required to restrict access to their facilities, a change ports hope to make by using the yet-to-be-developed federal transportation worker identification card.

In addition to ports, the rules apply to tank vessels, barges, large passenger ships, cargo ships, towing ships and offshore oil and gas platforms.

The rules represent the first step of implementing the Maritime Transportation Security Act, which President Bush signed into law in November 2002. The idea behind them is to lessen the vulnerability of oceangoing vessels and U.S. ports from a terrorist attack.

"With 95 percent of our nation''s overseas cargo carried by ship, maritime security is critical to ensuring our nation''s homeland and economic security," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge told an audience in Wilmington, Del., in late October when he announced the rules.

The Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration, Bureau of Customs and Border Protection and Maritime Administration worked with the Department of Homeland Security to draft the rules. The agencies released a draft in July and made some changes before putting out the final version. Although the rules officially take effect on Nov. 22, ports have until Dec. 29 to submit their security plans and until July 1 to implement most of the requirements.

A requirement that mandates some ships to carry automatic identification system technology does not take effect until Dec. 31, 2004.

"These final requirements put in practice innovative protective measures on a nationwide basis," Ridge said. "We are using technology, such as the new Automatic Identification System, teamwork in designing and implementing security measures with the private sector, and a flexible response system that government, responders and industry will all use to immediately increase security to meet emerging threats."

The final rules remain largely unchanged from the July draft. However, one of the changes eased cargo screening requirements. The final rule requires cargo be monitored for evidence of tampering but no longer requires it to be screened for "dangerous substances."

The United States is not the only country keeping close tabs on maritime security. Maritime security has moved up the political agenda in Europe, with several new initiatives in the pipeline.

The Europeans already are involved in efforts to plug security gaps in waterborne trade. Antwerp, Felixstowe, Hamburg, Le Havre and Rotterdam are among the European ports that have joined the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Container Security Initiative. The CSI program aims to "prevent global containerized cargo from being exploited by terrorists."

Europeans also are moving beyond such U.S.-inspired programs and introducing their own measures. At a recent maritime security conference in Hamburg, Jean Trestour, head of the European Commission''s maritime policy unit, said a new legislative program is being developed by the EC that will add a number of security regulations. The program ultimately will be paid for by taxpayers in the region, he said. Included on the EC''s list of priorities are the mandatory global tracking of shipments and the advanced submission of cargo manifests. In addition, a draft law that will close off port areas to the public is imminent.

The EC also is beefing up its security apparatus. This summer it adopted a proposal to widen the remit of the European Maritime Safety Agency to include maritime security.

- Ken Cottrill contributed to this report.