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(WASHINGTON D.C.) – Just two days before a new national port security regime takes effect, U.S. Senator Patty Murray and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) got a security briefing at the Port of Seattle and viewed a technology demonstration. Both Senators represent some of the nation's busiest cargo ports (Murray's Seattle/Tacoma is the 3rd busiest; Clinton's New York/New Jersey is the 2nd busiest).
The Senators got security briefings from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Port of Seattle and the Customs and Border Protection agency. They got a demonstration of the Port's Customs VACIS scan technology, which provides an x-ray like view of container cargo. They also toured the Coast Guard's new small response boat, which is made in Port Orchard, WA.
Their visit preceded the July 1st deadline for ports and vessels to submit their Coast-Guard approved security plans, as mandated by the 2002 Maritime Transportation Security Act.
Senator Murray's remarks below:
Nearly 20 months ago, Congress passed the Maritime Transportation Security Act. It requires ports and vessels to implement their Coast Guard-approved security plans by July 1st – in just 2 days. We're here today to get an update on security measures at the Port of Seattle. We just got a briefing from the Port, Customs and the Coast Guard, and we've seen a demonstration of the VACIS system.
I want to thank John Hemingway and Mic Dinsmore for hosting us today. Our ports are economic engines for our State, and I want to make sure that our people, our jobs and our economy are well-protected from terrorist attacks. John and Mic have been tremendous leaders, pushing for uniform standards and stronger security measures. And, I’m proud to be their partner.
I asked Senator Clinton to join me at the Port of Seattle today because there are a lot of similarities between this Port and the Port of New York/New Jersey: both are among the largest container ports in the country, both are participating in Operation Safe Commerce, both have heavy ferry and cruise ship traffic, and both are located right next to the city's downtown core. It's critical that we do all can to keep our ports secure and to learn from each other. I've visited Senator Clinton's port and today she's visiting one of mine.
Behind me is one of the Washington state products that I’m most proud. This SAFE Boat is one of the most recent to come off the line in Port Orchard and is headed to Louisiana where it will help the Coast Guard protect the mouth of the Mississippi river.
Scott tells me there are 30 SAFE Boats currently patrolling New York Harbor and the rest of the state’s waterways and there are more on the way: NYPD’s Dive Team just ordered one, Suffolk County’s Sheriff ordered another, and two more are scheduled to be delivered to the Coast Guard in New York.
I’m proud to have helped provide funding that allowed the Coast Guard to contract to buy 700 of these security boats built right here in Washington state, and I’m proud that they are patrolling the rivers, harbors, and waterways in Puget Sound and across the country. The Coast Guard and Customs are doing a great job with the tools they have. But, the fact still remains that our nation’s ports remain some of our most vulnerable assets.
The President’s budget request included less than twelve percent of what industry leaders, including the American Association of Ports Authorities, say we need to secure our port facilities. I think it's wrong to push more and more of the security costs onto our local ports and communities.
As policy-makers, we need to do more to ensure the safety and security of: the people who work at or near these facilities, and every individual, every family, and every small business dependant on the safe flow of commerce from our ports to middle-America.
So I'll continue to use my position on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee to ensure that we: have the Secure Trade Lanes that Operation Safe Commerce promises, provide our port and terminal operators with enough funding to physically secure their facilities, and create a Fully Integrated Cargo Security System that ensures the integrity of our goods from the factory floor to the end consumer.