News Releases

Murray Unveils First-in-the-Nation Port Security Demonstration

Feb 03 2003

At Port of Seattle, Senator helps demonstrate system to improve container safety, efficiency

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray joined with TSA, Coast Guard, Customs, and port officials to demonstrate a new port security initiative that improves the security of cargo entering the United States while maintaining the efficiency of international commerce and transportation. While the majority of the post-September 11th security improvements have focused on airports and borders, 6 million containers enter U.S. ports annually, including 1.8 million into the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

"In Washington state, seaports are the lifeblood of our region's economy. Our ports move billions of dollars of goods each year and generate tens of thousands of good-paying, family-wage jobs across our state," Murray said. "Improving security without undermining efficiency is critical to the economic health of our region."

As Chair of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Murray established Operation Safe Commerce, to help improve the security of cargo by enabling U.S.-bound containers that are inspected overseas to be electronically sealed and tracked through a U.S. port, and on to its final destination. Murray secured $28 million for the pilot program to improve cargo security at the nation's three largest container ports: New York/New Jersey, California-Long Beach, and Seattle-Tacoma.

Today at the Port of Seattle, Murray demonstrated how this initiative will work by opening a container that had just arrived in the Port, and showing how the electronic tracking device helps authorities know what the container holds and where it has been. The device can also determine whether the container has been tampered with while en route to the U.S.

"This pilot program will allow our nation's three largest ports - including Seattle and Tacoma - to know more about what is inside the millions of containers entering our ports. Operation Safe Commerce will help lay the foundation for a new national port security regime," Murray continued.

The initiative represents the first time that an end-to-end security procedure for commercial cargo has been implemented in the U.S. and represents one of the first concrete measures taken by U.S. ports to improve port security.

Murray was joined by: - Rear Adm. Errol Brown, District Commander, 13th Coast Guard District - Tom Harry, Director Northwest/Great Plains Customs Management Center, U.S. Customs Service - Steven Froehlich, Director of Stakeholder Relations for Maritime and Land Security, TSA - Mic Dinsmore, CEO Port of Seattle - Timothy J. Farrell, Dep. E.D., Port of Tacoma

Senator Murray's remarks follow:

"I'm proud to be here today to help demonstrate a new port security initiative to protect our ports, our citizens, and our economy.

I want to thank Rear Adm. Errol Brown, Tom Harry, Steven Froehlich, Mic Dinsmore, Tim Farrell, and Vic Verma for their hard work and dedication to securing our country, our economy, and our future.

To secure our ports we need new thinking, new technology, and new partnerships, and each of these individuals and their organizations is stepping up to the challenge. Thank you all for your partnership and commitment.

In Washington state, seaports are the lifeblood of our region's economy. Our ports move billions of dollars of goods each year and generate tens of thousands of good-paying, family-wage jobs across our state.

For decades in the Pacific Northwest, we've built our port infrastructure and procedures around economic efficiency. That's helped make the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma the third-busiest container load center in the nation.

But on September 11th, we tragically learned the need to realign our port system around both efficiency and security.

Among our largest security concerns have been the gaps in our trade system, which is built on a vision of free and open commerce. More than 6 million cargo containers enter the U.S. each year. Last year alone, 1.8 million containers entered the ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

Our challenge is knowing what's in the containers, where they've come from, and whether they've been tampered with.

Improving security without undermining efficiency is critical to the economic health of our region.

Through my role on the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, I held several hearings on port and cargo security. As a result of these hearings, I wrote and funded a new initiative called Operation Safe Commerce.

This pilot program will allow our nation's three largest ports - including Seattle and Tacoma - to monitor and track cargo. Operation Safe Commerce will help lay the foundation for a new national port security regime.

While we are working hard with our partners at TSA, the Coast Guard, Customs, and the Ports to launch Operation Safe Commerce, there are exciting things that are already happening on the ground that are making our country safer. That's why we are here today.

Through the vision and leadership of the individuals assembled here today, we now have a deployed security system. While the future is likely to produce many new systems and technologies to protect our security, today we are witnessing the first steps of achieving our goals. The significance of this first step is immense.

All involved deserve to be very proud of what they have accomplished here today. You are making a difference.

I would now like to introduce someone I have been fortunate to work closely with over the past several years, and who has done an outstanding job in protecting our ports and our waterways - the Commander of the Coast Guard's District 13 Region, Adm. Errol Brown."