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Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Representing the 43rd District of California

Security and Accountability for Every Port Act

August 6, 2009
Floor Statement
Rep. Maxine Waters [D-CA]: Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of H.R. 4954, SAFE Ports Act. Port Security has been on everyone's lips for the past two months with the proposed sale of the six major U.S. ports to the Dubai World Ports, a state-sponsored company backed by The United Arab Emirates. However, we all realize that port security was not really addressed by the outcome on that deal. What we still have at our ports is the free movement of cargo from just about every place in the world. Something must be done to establish security at our American ports. Today, we have an opportunity to do just that by supporting, H.R. 4954, SAFE Ports Act.

The major provisions of the bill address a number of issues that became even more relevant after the Dubai debacle. One, the bill establishes security standards for all cargo containers entering the U.S. after six months of enactment. This is long overdue, since containers represent the major device being handled by our Ports. The Port of Los Angeles handled 7.3 million containers in 2005, and is expected to handle even more this year, setting new records. The bill also authorizes a study of the current radiation and nuclear detection scanning technology. It came to light that this type of technology in this country is not up to par with many of our trading partners. Moreover, the bill creates a dedicated stream of funding for port security, which is necessary to maintain the level of security recommended by our own Coast Guard.

In addition, the bill would establish a Port security worker training and exercise program. This would ensure the readiness of these workers, particularly in a changing threat environment. Port security personnel must be prepared for these threats. The bill also accelerates the U.S. Coast Guard Deepwater program. Further, the bill established maritime command centers to ensure a coordinated response to our Port security needs.

Similar measures have advanced in the Senate, where Senators STEVENS and INOUYE have introduced S. 1052, the Transportation Security Improvement Act of 2005, and Senators COLLINS and MURRAY the Greenlane Maritime Act, S. 2008. These bills require marine terminal operators to comply with Coast Guard regulations to secure cargo and terminal facilities at all of our nation's ports, regardless of who operates them.

Inspections of all containers and security measures like the security IDs are important to security. Port Security is a major issue in the State of California, and of major concern to me is security at the Port of Los Angeles, one of the nation's busiest ports. The Port of Los Angeles is the largest container complex operating in the U.S., and the 8th busiest container port in the world. When combined with the Port of Long Beach the two ports rank as the 5th busiest in the world. The Los Angeles Port handles 162 million metric tons of cargo (7.3 million containers) in 2005, representing approximately $150 billion.

What is astounding is that the Los Angeles Port covers 7500 areas, 8300--water and--4200 land. This means that the Port of Los Angeles has 43 miles of water front facilities to secure. The City of Los Angeles cannot provide adequate security alone for the Port, but in cooperation with the federal government we can begin to address the concerns of workers, port and terminal operators, and others, by supporting this bill.