Lawmakers offer legislation to bolster port security

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation to significantly improve security at more than 350 ports around the country.

Their legislation, the GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act, would direct the Homeland Security Department to prepare a strategic plan for supply chain security, addressing all modes of transportation by which cargo containers move through seaports in the United States. It also would require DHS to develop protocols for resuming trade activities at ports in the event of a terrorist attack.

The legislation also calls on DHS to complete implementation of the International Trade Data System, a single, uniform system for the electronic collection, dissemination and sharing of import and export data.

DHS also would be required to direct research, development, test and evaluation of maritime and cargo security technologies, and through Operation Safe Commerce, initiate grant and demonstration projects.

'Coming from a state with three international cargo ports, I am keenly aware of the importance of our seaports to our national economy and to the communities in which they are located,' said Collins, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. 'In addition to our ports' economic significance, the link between maritime security and our national security is evident.'

The bill authorizes a total of $835 million in appropriations, with the funds coming from duties now being collected by DHS' Customs and Border Protection directorate.

While DHS had planned to combine the port security grant program, which has awarded hundreds of millions of dollars to ports around the country for security efforts, with other security grant programs, the bill would create a dedicated competitive grants program for port security applications.

'Right now, there is a gaping hole in America's security when it comes to the cargo entering our ports each day,' Murray said. 'To protect our nation we have to develop a cargo security system that closes vulnerabilities, provides a way to resume trade after an incident, and maintains the efficient flow of commerce. Our GreenLane bill addresses these issues, taking into account the input of all the key stakeholders and experts.'

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