Daily Breeze

July 02, 2003

Funding for ship security at issue
New rules require port agencies and industries to make expensive changes in their operations.


WASHINGTON — New maritime security regulations that could affect everyone from stevedores and barge captains to cruise ship passengers were issued by the Homeland Security Department on Tuesday.

The rules, which implement major portions of a port security law passed by Congress last year, will cover an estimated 10,000 vessels; 5,000 facilities, including the port of Los Angeles; and dozens of offshore oil and natural gas drilling platforms.

They are designed to keep better tabs on ships in U.S. waters and prevent the smuggling of terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. Experts have repeatedly warned that gaping holes remain in maritime security nearly two years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks highlighted a wide range of vulnerabilities in the nation.

Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen said the new regulations “provide templates to strengthen security measures for our ports and for those who do business in our ports.”

But many port and maritime industry officials complain that the federal government has failed to provide enough money to implement the regulations, which become final in November, after a comment period.

The American Association of Port Authorities noted that the Coast Guard estimates new security measures will cost ports $5.4 billion over 10 years. But a homeland security spending bill passed by the House recently included only $100 million for port security next year.

“In many cases, those expenses are beyond the ports’ resources,” said Kurt Nagle, the association’s president.

Homeland security officials pointed out that the department has distributed $337 million in port security grants since 2002 and another $105 million will be distributed later this year. But they acknowledge that maritime industries will have to shoulder much of the added cost, expected to total $7.3 billion over 10 years.

Ships, ports and other maritime facilities will be required to have security plans and conduct drills and training exercises.

Passengers may be subject to screening similar to that at airports during periods of heightened alert for terrorism.

The Coast Guard will be required to pass on information about threats to “appropriate members of the maritime industry and other authorities in the port.”

Automatic Identification Systems that transmit detailed ship information to other boats and on-shore agencies will be required for large passenger vessels, ships making international voyages and many other commercial vessels. The systems allow for virtual tracking and monitoring, according to the Homeland Security Department.

Teams will be deployed to 2,500 foreign ports to review their security programs.

The regulations are expected to have a major impact on container vessels carrying cargo from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, tankers carrying highly explosive liquefied natural gas, ships that supply offshore oil rigs and facilities that handle potentially dangerous cargo like chemicals and explosives.