Chertoff: Inspecting All Cargo Would 'Destroy' Ports

In remarks to the American Association of Port Authorities, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff remarked that physically inspecting every single container ship would destroy the ports.

“We have to, in fact, use a risk-managed approach and a layered approach and a cost-beneficial approach to triage and select those elements of the container supply chain that we should take a close look at while letting the vast majority of flow go unimpeded,” said Chertoff.
According to Chertoff, significant advances have been made since Sept. 11th to protect the ports, and the billions of dollars of commerce that enter the United States every year through the maritime domain.

“We've done this through new international maritime standards and security regulations, new technology and infrastructure improvements and through new grant funding,” said Chertoff. He acknowledged the port authorities, the terminal operators and the port stakeholders who also made substantial investment in security, “which reflects the fact that investments in security ultimately make good business sense.”
Chertoff talked about three areas of port security that are critical areas for DHS, namely:

Keeping dangerous cargo out of the country and from entering U.S. Ports - The Container Security Initiative now is active in more than 50 overseas ports, accounting for 85 percent of container traffic bound for the United States. This includes nine CSI ports in the Western Hemisphere – ports in Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Honduras, the Dominican Republican, Jamaica and the Bahamas – and four more CSI ports will come online later this year in Colombia and Panama. This begins the process of inspection, in many cases, overseas before containers are loaded on a ship. The Secure Freight program is increasing the data we collect on containers that are going to transit the international supply chain, and DHS now is testing the feasibility of overseas scanning for radiation to prevent the entry of WMD into our maritime domain.

Strengthening the security of the infrastructure of U.S. ports through the use of grant funding, as well as the work of the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection – DHS has requested that Congress give the department $210 million for port security, building upon more than $800 million in port security grants that has been distributed since 9/11, for a total of over $1 billion. These grant funds are being used to build capabilities in and around port areas, covering the full spectrum of prevention, protection, response and recovery. For example, the Port of New York received more than $77 million to secure facilities within its area, including $18 million to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to enhance surveillance capabilities and harden facilities against attack. DHS awarded the Port of Los Angeles in Long Beach, the largest container port in the United States, over $91 million for similar work, including $8 million to build a new command and control center that will support federal, state and local security personnel with 24/7 surveillance capability.

DHS plans for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential, which is designed to secure U.S. ports against the possibility of infiltration from within – WIC will be a tamper-resistant, biometric credential for U.S. transportation workers, including port workers. DHS estimates about three-quarters of a million port workers will be issued TWIC cards and that they will be required for all individuals who expect unescorted access to secure areas of MTSA-regulated facilities and vessels. TSA is responsible for conducting the security threat assessment on TWIC applicants, which includes a check against terrorist watch lists, an immigration status check and an FBI fingerprint-based criminal history records check. The first set of regulations for TWIC were issued in January, and the rule becomes effective in a matter of days, after which DHS expects to begin enrolling port workers.

“We do not believe in security at any cost. We believe in risk management, which means looking at threats, vulnerabilities and consequences, weighing what are the risks we should be most concerned about, considering the measures we are looking to undertake, in terms of whether they are cost beneficial, and then weighing that in terms of making up a strategic plan,” said Chertoff.

“We also believe in layered security,” he added. “That's recognition of the fact that there's no magic bullet for security, whether it be our ports or elsewhere. Any single approach can fail.”

A cookie-cutter approach to port security will not work, he noted, adding, “One of my favorite proposals is that which says we are derelict because we don't physically inspect every single container that comes into the country. How many here want us to do that? I guess I have my answer. We know that to do that would be to destroy the ports.”

In concluding his remarks, Chertoff talked about port destruction of another kind: the aftermath of hurricanes Rita and Katrina. “When we look at the experience of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we saw tremendous damage to the port structures, as well as all the pain and suffering and loss of human life,” said Chertoff. “Among other things, 1,800 aids to navigation were destroyed by the hurricanes, and the storm caused significant silting of the navigable waterways, and led to the sinking of 2,900 vessels in the region.”

He noted that if ports are to recover quickly following a manmade or natural disaster, planning is critical. “In order to recover ports from the kind of damage we've seen in Katrina and Rita ... we have to plan ahead of time about how to resume operations. And that has to be a joint effort, one undertaken not only with the federal government, but with you who own the assets and employ the people who work in the ports,” said Chertoff.

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