You will pay for cargo security

NEW YORK CITY — American consumers will pay higher costs for imported goods because of increased security to prevent terrorism, a consultant said Wednesday.

Michael Conners, a principal at Booz Allen Hamilton in McLean, Va., told a gathering of maritime officials at the U.S. Maritime Security Expo here that the maritime industry can't afford to pay for security, and Congress has given no sign it will ante up more than seed money to help secure U.S. ports.

"There is no question the maritime industry cannot bear the burden, and it must be borne by the consumer," said Conners.

Conners spoke on the first day of the conference that is exploring how the maritime industry can secure its goods and products far from the U.S. borders.

Although federal officials have imposed new rules and regulations since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, much work still needs to be done to make sure six million containers entering U.S. ports each year do not contain weapons of mass destruction smuggled by terrorists.

"We have to educate the American public that our goods will be affected," Conners said.

So far, the Homeland Security Department has provided grants to help U.S. ports improve their infrastructures. Commercial companies have worked on their own to increase security of their containers in exchange for faster access through U.S. Customs.

Tighter security could result in more than $2 billion in tariffs from cargo that had previously been fraudulently identified. But for the most part, the public will pay, Conners said.

In addition, he said the United States must make sure that its neighboring countries — Mexico and Canada — maintain the same charges on goods to prevent shippers from unloading their goods in other countries to avoid paying U.S. tariffs.

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