December 11, 2003

Security funding on way for port

SAN PEDRO: Facilities will get money for inspection equipment, surveillance systems and lighting.


Los Angeles-area port facilities will get $18.7 million from the latest round of federal homeland security grants, officials announced Wednesday.

The funding includes $10.4 million for the Port of Los Angeles and $8.3 million for associated terminal facilities in and around the Los Angeles and Long Beach port complex.

The money will be used for vehicle and cargo inspection equipment, floating security barriers, closed-circuit television surveillance systems, fencing and lighting.

The grant was the largest the Port of Los Angeles has received in three rounds of funding from the Department of Homeland Security. Officials welcomed the money, though it was far short of the $29.3 million they requested for a range of security improvements at the sprawling facility.

“While these resources are significant, the fight to gain recognition of the port’s security needs is far from over,” Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn said.

Last month, officials from the city and the port came to Washington to lobby for a bigger federal commitment to funding port security. They endorsed legislation sponsored by Rep. Jane Harman, D-El Segundo, that would give the ports a portion of the $15.6 billion in shipping duties collected each year by U.S. Customs.

“These facilities . . . have been seriously underfunded considering their visibility and potential vulnerability,” Harman said, calling the latest grants “a first step.”

Security experts have warned that U.S. ports are vulnerable to a terrorist attack or that terrorists could use one of the millions of cargo containers that flow into the country each year to smuggle a nuclear, chemical or biological weapon.

Congress passed a comprehensive port security law last year, but provided little direct funding to the ports, critics complain.

The U.S. Coast Guard has estimated that it will cost ports $5.4 billion over the next 10 years to implement the law, according to the American Association of Port Authorities. Security upgrades at the Los Angeles-Long Beach complex could total $500 million over the next five years, officials estimate.

The Homeland Security Department awarded $179 million on Wednesday. Funding requests totaled more than $987 billion, according to the port association.