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Senate passes own version of port security bill


Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed the Port Security Improvement Act of 2006 (H.R. 4954), which aims to improve maritime cargo and port security.

The bill would mandate that port security plans include provisions for controlling access by individuals engaged in transporting containers in or out of a port; require a phased-in implementation of biometric transportation security cards for individuals with access to secure port areas; set a deadline for implementing the federal Transportation Worker Identity Credential (TWIC) program; and require 22 ports that receive 98 percent of all incoming cargo to install radiation detection equipment by the end of 2007.

H.R. 4954 also would authorize $5.5 billion for port security over six years — including funds to add 1,000 customs and border officers — and appropriate $1.2 billion for rail security and $2.4 billion for mass transit security grants.

The Senate drafted the bill as a substitute to the Security and Accountability For Every (SAFE) Port Act the House passed in May. Both bills propose to appropriate $400 million a year for the Port Security Grant program, and authorize the Container Security Initiative and Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism.

The two bills now will be reviewed by a House-Senate conference committee, which will draft a single bill to present to the president for his signature.

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) endorses the Senate bill.

“Representatives of several Senate committees took components of the GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act (S. 2459) and the Public Transportation Terrorism Prevention Act of 2006 (S. 2791) to develop an important new bill that promises to enhance port and cargo security … and reduce the potential for terrorists or weapons to reach our shores via maritime commerce,” said AAPA President and Chief Executive Officer Kurt Nagle in a prepared statement.