Sen. Murray Announces First Installment of Operation Safe Commerce Funding for Seattle/Tacoma

Jun 09 2003

$13.3 million to help secure container cargo at Washington ports; Bush Administration still threatening to raid half of the funding from port security program

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Patty Murray announced today that the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma will receive $13.3 million in funding for Operation Safe Commerce, an innovative port security initiative that she developed last year.

The pilot program will help the nation’s three largest container load centers monitor and track cargo containers from their port of origin to their final destination.

Of the 6 million containers that enter the U.S. annually, only about 2 percent are inspected at U.S. ports.

Murray won Congressional approval of $28 million for Operation Safe Commerce in July, 2002 and another $30 million in February, 2003. The $58 million program is to be shared among the Ports of New York/New Jersey, Los Angeles/Long Beach, and Seattle/Tacoma which collectively take in 75 percent of the nation’s cargo containers.

Today’s announcement for Seattle/Tacoma comes from $30 million that Congress approved in February as part of the 2003 Omnibus Appropriations bill. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration is threatening to divert the other $28 million approved by Congress to spend on other programs. Sen. Patty Murray has called the Administration’s proposal “unacceptable,” and had demanded that the Administration abandon its effort to raid the port security funding.

“I am proud that the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma will finally receive this important port security funding,” said Murray. “Operation Safe Commerce will make our ports and our communities safer, because it will allow us to know exactly what is in the containers coming in to our ports.”

“I have been fighting for this initiative to protect our ports for more than a year, and I will continue to stand up for our state against the Administration’s efforts to divert port security funds elsewhere.”

“I appreciate Adm. Loy’s efforts to get this program moving,” Murray continued, “but I remain adamantly opposed to any proposal to cut funding from our ports.”

The grants were awarded on a competitive basis by the Operation Safe Commerce Executive Steering Community, which is made up of representatives of the Coast Guard, Customs, the Department of Transportation, and the Transportation Security Administration.

A number of other meritorious applications which were submitted by the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma were not funded, because of the Administration’s intention to release only half the funding approved by Congress.

While the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma will receive $13.3 million, the ports applied for $37 million in grants. Among the grants that were not funded were a hazardous materials supply chain from Yokohama, Japan and a coffee supply chain from Guatemala serving Starbucks coffee.

Upon learning of the Bush Administration’s intention to raid half of the Operation Safe Commerce funding, Murray fired off a letter to Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge, urging him to abandon plans to raid the port security funding.

“I have no intention of quietly watching your agency divert funds that are critically needed to ensure the security of our trade lanes in order to make up for the Administration’s irresponsible actions in this area,” Murray wrote.