Lautenberg, Menendez Introduce Bill To Improve Security At Nation's 361 Seaports

Lautenberg, Menendez Introduce Bill To Improve Security At Nation's 361 Seaports

N.J. SENS ACT AFTER BUSH ADMINISTRATION ADMITS IT WILL MISS DEADLINE TO SCREEN 100 PERCENT OF NATION'S CARGO

Newark - Today, Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) joined executives from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as they announced their introduction of a new bill to increase security at the nation's 361 ports. Their bill comes after the Bush Administration admitted to Senator Lautenberg that it will miss a deadline to screen 100 percent of the nation's cargo for radiological and nuclear weapons. Their bill would, for the first time, create minimum security standards for all containers entering the United States.

"It's been seven years since 9/11 and President Bush has still not secured our ports. Port security is essential to protect our residents from terrorist attack, and if this Administration won't adequately protect us, we will," Senator Lautenberg said. "This bill would pick up where the Bush Administration is leaving off by setting minimum security standards for every container coming into our country and helping ensure port security grants are awarded based on risk. I'm glad we could work with the Port Authority and the port community to help make our entire region safer."

"Because the stakes are so high and the margin of error is so low, we need to do everything in our power and spare no expense to keep our ports safe and prevent terrorists from destroying our commerce and disrupting our lives," said Senator Menendez. "This bill will fill critical gaps by enhancing and expanding our security efforts to bring even greater levels of scrutiny and accountability to port security."

Port Authority Chairman Tony Coscia said, "Federal efforts to secure the nation's transportation systems have not treated the security threat at our nation's ports with due seriousness. The Senators' bill, which builds on the recommendations of our Task Force, recognizes the critical importance of introducing uniform federal standards for all ports in the country. We thank Senator Lautenberg and Senator Menendez for their leadership and urge passage of this legislation to secure the nation's 361 port facilities."

Port Authority Executive Director Christopher O. Ward said, "Our ports help drive our economy, which is why their safety and security must be a top priority. I want to thank Senators Lautenberg and Menendez for their work on this legislation, as well as Senators Schumer, Clinton and the rest of our Congressional delegation for their efforts. We will continue to work with our partners in Washington to ensure the safety and security of our ports and the economic benefits they provide."

Port Authority First Deputy Executive Director Susan Bass Levin said, "The ports are a critical lynchpin to our economy and we simply cannot afford to have any security incident impair the ports' ability to drive prosperity. We have to make the commitment at every level of government to ensuring the ports are protected and Senator Lautenberg and Senator Menendez's legislation does just that by requiring the federal government to strengthen and standardize port security procedures across the nation."

The Senators' bill would require cargo be monitored from the moment it is packed into containers abroad until it reaches its destination in the United States. Containers that do not meet the standards would be refused entry into the country.

The bill also calls for:
• Minimum security standards for essential port services such as supply and launch vessels, and bunker and fuel deliveries, which are largely unregulated.
• Each of the nation's port regions to have a response and recovery plan in case of a major terrorist incident or emergency.
• The ability for law enforcement officials to confiscate a fraudulent or altered Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC).
• Creates new standards to more accurately determine port security risks and identify funding needs. In 2006, Sen. Lautenberg wrote a law requiring all port security grants to be awarded based on risk.

A fact sheet on the bill is attached.

The Senators' bill comes after a hearing last week in the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security, which Lautenberg chairs. During the hearing, Bush Administration officials admitted they would be unable to meet a 2012 deadline to scan all containers coming into America's ports.

The Senators' bill is also based on recommendations of a task force of government and business officials created by Chairman Coscia in 2006. The purpose of the task force was to foster public discussion of port security issues and to explore gaps in port and supply-chain security.

The Port of New York and New Jersey is the largest port on the East Coast and the second-busiest container port in the country. It supports approximately 230,000 jobs and is responsible for generating $20 billion in economic activity.

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