Alliance Launched to Promote U.S. Port Security

Coalition for Secure Ports links stakeholders in marine cargo chain to advocate for united approach to improving safety

Coalition for Secure Ports links stakeholders in marine cargo chain to advocate for united approach to improving safety

Washington, DC — September 28, 2004 — Terminal operators, vessel operators, port associations, shippers and other stakeholders responsible for handling the 8 million cargo containers that enter the United States each year are joining together as the Coalition for Secure Ports to advocate for enhanced maritime security, the new group announced last Thursday.

The coalition said it would immediately initiate a campaign to educate policymakers and the public on steps that have been taken to improve port and cargo chain security since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as well as identify actions that the government, in cooperation with private sector stakeholders, can take now to further improve the security of the nation's marine transportation system.

"Today's ports, vessels, and the entire marine transportation system are more secure than before 9/11 due to the concerted efforts of government, the private sector and our international trade partners," said Basil Maher, president and chief operating officer of Maher Terminals and president of the National Association of Waterfront Employers (NAWE). "Yet too much is at stake for the nation to be lulled into a false sense of security. Over 95 percent of the nation's import cargo moves through America's 361 seaports each year, and the maritime industry contributes more than $1 trillion to America's annual [gross domestic product]. We need to continue to make smart, sophisticated, technology-based improvements to ensure the security of this system."

Maher asserted that the government must focus its attention on maritime security with as much intensity as it has focused on aviation security. "Currently, 90 percent of the Transportation Security Administration's annual budget is allocated to aviation security," Maher said. "While aviation security undeniably deserves our continued support, an appropriate level of resources must be dedicated to addressing the crucial challenges still facing maritime security."

He added that the coalition's top priority is working with government leaders to increase maritime security awareness, appropriately fund port security programs and ensure that the best available technology is utilized in port and cargo security.

The coalition said it would focus its efforts on three important steps necessary to achieve its goal of strengthening port security:

  1. Requiring enhanced cargo information, for example, knowing the contents of each cargo container before it enters this country;

  2. Monitoring the location and security of containers in transit; and,

  3. Implementing a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) to ensure that the identity of individuals with access to cargo can be verified reliably and expediently.
"Technology is the key to achieving each one of these crucial next steps," said Chuck Carroll, general counsel for NAWE. "From the moment a cargo container is stuffed overseas to its arrival inside the U.S., appropriate government authorities must know its precise contents as well as the identity of the parties responsible for placing it in the marine transportation system. An advanced system that monitors cargo container data in order to produce timely and actionable information about container contents would greatly augment government's ability to screen and inspect cargo more effectively."

Carroll suggested that global monitoring of containers in transit must also be undertaken to immediately alert authorities to tampering or unauthorized entry. "Also, we must implement the TWIC throughout the country as expeditiously as possible," he said. "Transportation system workers nationwide should obtain and carry a tamper-resistant credential that contains unique biometric identification to prevent unauthorized individuals from gaining access to secure cargo and critical infrastructure."

In addition, Carroll said that the government should pursue the necessary research and development to make container tracking easier, and container contents more secure. "Too much is at risk to pursue piecemeal, cosmetic, 'feel good' security measures," he said.

The coalition said it also would work to ensure that policymakers are aware of the progress that has already been made to marine cargo security and avoid actions that merely impede the flow of commerce, creating a false sense of security without delivering real container security. Since the passage of the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA), which established the legislative basis for improving port security, government and the private sector have successfully implemented a number of important initiatives to improve marine cargo security.

"Today, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) screens intelligence information on 100 percent of all cargo containers being imported into the country," said Jon Hemingway, president and CEO of SSA Marine. "Each and every container identified as high risk is physically inspected by CBP upon arrival in the U.S. CBP has also placed vehicle and cargo inspection system (VACIS) technology at major cargo terminal facilities throughout the nation to inspect containers for dangerous substances and devices, and is in the process of placing radiation scanning portals at marine terminals that will enable the detection of radioactive materials inside containers."

Hemingway said that marine terminals themselves are also more secure as a result of installing enhanced security systems. Security training and awareness programs have been initiated and incident response and evacuation plans have been put in place, he said, and the government has implemented programs such as Operation Safe Commerce, a pilot program analyzing security in the commercial supply chain and testing solutions with new technologies, as well as the Container Security Initiative (CSI), under which teams of CBP officials deployed at overseas terminals conduct onsite inspections of U.S.-bound cargo.

"The members of the Coalition for Secure Ports are part of a global cargo transportation system, and enhancing U.S. cargo security requires the cooperation of government, private sector stakeholders and our international trading partners," the coalition said in a statement. "To ensure cargo chain security, a multilateral, unified and cooperative effort is necessary — from the shippers who stuff the containers overseas, to the ocean carriers that transport them, to the ports and terminals that transfer them to land-based transportation modes, to the trucks and railroads that deliver them to their eventual destination and, of course, to the U.S. government, which has the ultimate investigative, law enforcement and regulatory authority over domestic security."

The Coalition for Secure Ports consists of private sector stakeholders who, along with the U.S. government, share the responsibility for the security of ports, vessels and cargo, including cargo containers, entering the United States, as well as the efficient flow of commerce.

According to the coalition's Web site, the group's members as of September 22 included:

  • Boston Shipping Association

  • Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition

  • Hampton Roads Maritime Association

  • Hampton Roads Shipping Association

  • Maritime Association for the Port of New York and New Jersey

  • Maritime Exchange for the Delaware River and Bay

  • National Association of Waterfront Employers

  • Nation'sPort

  • New York Shipping Association

  • Pacific Maritime Association

  • Pacific Merchant Shipping Association

  • Ports of the Delaware River Marine Trade Association

  • South Carolina Stevedores Association

  • Southeast Florida Employers Port Association

  • Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore

  • United States Maritime Alliance, Ltd.

  • West Gulf Maritime Association

For more information on the challenges and opportunities presented by increasingly global supply chains, see the special in-depth report in the August/September 2004 issue of Supply & Demand Chain Executive, which includes the following articles:

For more information on the global supply chain, with a focus on security issues, see "Building the Secure Supply Chain," the Net Best Thing article in the June/July 2003 issue of iSource Business (now Supply & Demand Chain Executive) magazine.