Statement of Captain Jeffrey Monroe M.M.
Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs
"Cargo Containers: The Next Terrorist Target?"
March, 20 2003
TESTIMONY BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON
MARCH 20, 2003
Presented by CAPTAIN JEFFREY W. MONROE, M.M., DIRECTOR
DEPARTMENT OF PORTS AND TRANSPORTATION,
CITY OF PORTLAND, MAINE
Good Morning Madame Chairman and distinguished members of the Committee. As the Director of Ports and Transportation for the City of Portland, Maine, I want to thank you for the opportunity to discuss my Department's experiences since I last had the privilege of testifying before a Senate committee in October of 2001.
The Department of Ports and Transportation manages the Portland International Jetport, the municipal marine facilities in the Port of Portland and coordinates surface transportation programs in our metropolitan area.
In the eighteen months since 9/11 we have come a long way in securing our nation's transportation system, particularly in aviation. The Transportation Security Agency has successfully managed the hardening of our aviation facilities on an accelerated schedule. They have supervised the installation of scores of screening devices and the training of thousands of new employees. We commend their efforts. But now as the TSA turns its attention to our nation's seaports, it faces an even more difficult task. Our ports remain critically vulnerable. While we have made great strides in many areas of port security, particularly in managing our international cruise ship passenger trade, we still must find solutions to the most serious problems on the waterfront which include:
1. Lack of coordination between agencies regulating seaport commerce;
2. Lack of standardization of procedures between and within agencies;
3. Continuing lack of intelligence information available to port managers;
4. Agreements on manner, amounts and sources of funding.
5. Long term solution in providing qualified and well trained personnel for port security programs.
Today I would like to address these problems and offer suggestions for the successful outcome of a number of proposed programs.
I would like to preface my comments by saying that I am in complete agreement with those who have advocated pushing back the nationâ€™s borders when it comes to container security. We all understand that by the time something is found at the pier, it may be already be too late. We support the Container Security Initiative (CSI) and the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT). Monitoring the supply chain and making brokers, freight forwarders and carriers assume a new level of responsibility is critical. Control of containers from the point of loading to the point of discharge, and the assurance that nothing can be added to units in transit, is a critical method of managing potential threats. Every step of the process must have a series of checks and balances to insure that the system is working correctly. U.S. Customs must be the single federal agency that monitors the activities of carriers, brokers and stevedoring companies that work in multiple ports.
We fully support programs to harden our continental borders and propose the establishment of marine border crossings. As we design our new passenger and freight terminals in Portland, we are including critical security elements in our planning. Canada is our closest neighbor and working together, our two nations must establish a set of procedures for cross border commerce that allows that cargo to move quickly between our countries while establishing a joint continental boundary to protect our respective nations. I am encouraged by the exchange of federal officers in some of our major ports where U.S. bound cargo arriving in Canadian ports can be pre-screened and Canadian cargo arriving in U.S. ports is similarly handled.
We also support tightening the loophole on the difference between an *entry* port and the point where the shipment reached U.S. territory. Cargo containers can no longer be allowed to continue their journey by highway or rail without declaration of their contents or being screened. Some of this cargo moves through the heart of our major population centers in bond before it is ever looked at or cleared by Customs.
Cargo that is leaving the United States also needs to be checked as part of an international effort. We support the new 24 hour rule, but note that it is will be extremely difficult for agricultural, seafood and other suppliers of perishable products to strictly comply due to the fact that often those products go from harvest to delivery on the dock through a â€śjust in timeâ€ť delivery system. The handling of agricultural and similar products must be managed in a different, but equally secure means.
While we applaud the efforts of Congress and federal agencies as they promulgate new rules for secure operations, we find ourselves in the unique position of acting as mediators between various rule-making bodies. This situation cannot continue. On my desk, I have a plethora of paper designed to help me secure the port. These rules cover everything from the height of fences to the height of lettering on badges. They are issued by agencies without regard or knowledge of what other agencies are regulating. I fully understand that we are in a transitional phase as we design and implement our new Department of Homeland Security but one of our first priorities must be the coordination between these agencies. In addition, the application of rules and standards must be the same in every port. Washington must educate their regional and field personnel how new regulations are to be applied and how to account for port differences. Field personnel must understand that there is a balance between the flow of commerce and the security of our borders. If that balance cannot be achieved, then those who seek to harm this nation have found their success. There must be regulatory consistency between our seaports.
I believe that our federal, state and local government agencies need to work together under the direction of the federal government and that industry representatives must be included as equal partners in determining what will work best locally. Like in aviation, a key representative of critical non-federal agencies in each port should be given a top secret clearance so that person may work with federal agencies to assist in measuring threats and responses. Our federal agencies need to include industryâ€™s local experts in determining how to manage their new responsibilities.
There also needs to be a significant effort within the new Department of Homeland Security to assess measures and response. Port commerce is not just about ships and piers, it includes trucks, rail, aviation and a host of other transportation infrastructure that must be included in determining what will work best. To that end, I propose the Transportation Security Administration establish a Coordination of Seaport Threat Reduction Task (COSTR) Force. This group would include officials from the various rule-making bodies such as Customs, INS and the Coast Guard. It would also include a number of port operations personnel representing the broad spectrum of U.S. port's and members from the aviation, rail and trucking industries. The task force would advise the Secretary of Homeland Security through the TSA regarding threats and actions focusing on:
1. Analysis of alternatives and solutions;
2. Review of Plans;
3. Timelines for implementation; and
4. Standardization of methodologies.
One of task forceâ€™s duties would be the examination of new regulations in four categories: redundancy; incompatibility; potential benefit; and economic impact. Additionally, the committee would provide recommendations on the sharing of data and intelligence between agencies and coordinate proposals for Congress. This mediation and coordination must be done in Washington and not on the local level. Protocols and procedures must be uniform throughout the system. Local decision-making cannot be incompatible from one geographic location to another and quality controls must be put in place and closely monitored. The Task Force should also assist with the periodic examination of the mission effectiveness of the agencies that impact ports under Homeland Security. They would also insure that all types of ports; seaports, airports, railports and highway border crossings are dealt with in the same manner.
Their last function would be the initiation of funding programs. Many of our smaller municipally owned ports cannot begin to comply with the new rules, regulations and requirements that are being proposed or implemented by various agencies. Towns and cities throughout this country are in dire financial condition and many ports are still paying bills from 9/11 that will not be reimbursed. Port security is a national issue. Local taxpayers are unable to shoulder this additional burden and should not be expected to. The ports in Maine alone are struggling to keep their business and can ill afford to loose the many jobs associated with maritime activities.
The discussion of user fees has to be broad based. A fee structure cannot provide a disincentive for using a port nor should the industry be saddled with numerous new fees when shippers are annually paying billions into federal coffers. This money must be used for its intended purpose.
Ultimately, we are concerned that new concepts that may come out of our desire to solidify our borders may put smaller ports at a disadvantage. Some agencies have suggested that the number of container ports should be consolidated and that small feeder ports should be eliminated so that screening resources can be concentrated in the megaports. The distribution of feeder ports has been an asset to regional and local economies. We should encourage the *Short Sea* initiative of the Maritime Administration and optimize use of water transportation along our U.S. coastline, keeping containers out of population centers and off our highways and rails until absolutely necessary. Over 70% of container traffic is concentrated in just a few ports in this country. That in itself makes megaports potential targets. I believe that smaller feeder ports have a better opportunity to identify a shipment that is potentially threatening. The support of the Marine Transportation System would deliver cargo to geographic areas by water, reducing highway congestion as well as enhancing safety and security. Every port that currently handles containers should be equipped with the proper screening equipment and trained personnel to meet new security requirements.
Finally, I am concerned that as we seek to develop the financial resources for our effort, we must also develop a new generation of qualified professionals who can maintain those efforts far into the future. All of our federal agencies are working hard to meet their newly expanded security missions. Personnel resources are getting scarce. I believe that we should support the inclusion of new educational programs at our maritime academies to prepare young men and women to take up the responsibilities in our ports and federal agencies and that we should support the development of a U.S. Merchant Marine Reserve to utilize the expertise of those who are willing to help not only in the defense of our nation, but also the protection of our seaports. Merchant Mariners are an untapped area of great expertise that we have not availed ourselves of to date.
With all of the new and increased focus on container traffic, I do not believe that our enemies will be able to deliver a weapon of mass destruction though a single shipment over water. I do believe however that through multiple conduits, such as seaports, airports, and border crossings, that terrorists will be able to ship component parts that are disguised as regular cargo, and can be assembled later to create a weapon that would be a significant threat to our nation. Intelligence is the only defense we have against such an effort. We must look at our transportation industry and make an effort to insure that those who are in critical positions are legitimate. The aviation industry was able to develop a system of screening airport personnel through a coordinated federal database. That system must be extended, without exception, to all maritime and transportation workers. We cannot afford any more delays in instituting a federal credential for transportation workers. We must also look at shippers, carriers, brokers and freight forwarders to insure they have every safeguard in place and that they have the support of our federal agencies in coordinating efforts in screening shipments.
In 2001, I supported Senator Snoweâ€™s legislation to create a unifying federal agency to oversee all sectors of transportation, which eventually became the TSA. I envisioned its primary mission as just such coordination, and an agency that can respond rapidly to our nation's transportation needs in times of crisis. It is time for the TSA to begin its active participation in our seaports.
We have come along way in eighteen months but the journey is far from over and our efforts must be coordinated and the responsibility shared for protecting our seaports as well as our entire transportation system. Every step we take puts up one more barrier to those who would seek to do us harm. Every step we take must also be measured so that the reaction to that threat is not so draconian that the mere possibility of a potential attack achieves more in impact than any single assault ever could. It is indeed the responsibility of all of us at every level of our transportation system, to insure we are working together as a team to protect our way of life while we seek to protect our nation.
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