Senate passes SAFE Port Act

SAFE Port Act

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The Senate passed a bill Sept. 14 that would provide $6.7 billion in funding to secure U.S. ports against terrorist attacks and require that the 22 largest U.S. ports install equipment to screen shipping containers for radioactive material.

But the Senate rejected a more stringent amendment to the bill that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced. It would have required the scanning of all 9.7 million shipping containers imported into the United States every year at their ports of origin. The House passed a similar measure earlier this year, and differences between the two bills need to be resolved in conference before Congress adjourns at the end of this month.

The bill also provides for a green lane, which will expedite cargo from shippers that voluntarily meet the highest levels of security for shipping containers, including physical security and access controls.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who co-sponsored the Security and Accountability for Every (SAFE) Port Act with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), said the bill would raise port security standards and “close a dangerous security gap and keep our country safe."

The act also calls for $300 million in funding in a five-year period for establishment of an integrated network of maritime security command centers at appropriate but unspecified U.S. ports and within maritime regions, which will be staffed by personnel from the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

These command centers, the bill states, should not involve the construction of new facilities but should use information technology connectivity and existing facilities to create an integrated, real-time communications and information-sharing network.

The bill also provides $25 million in funding over five years to the Homeland Security Department to improve the Automated Targeting System to identify high-risk containers moving through the international supply chain. DHS should use these funds to incorporate smart features, including complex algorithms and real-time intelligence, into ATS, the bill states.

The system will also be a component of the Container Security Initiative portion of the SAFE Port Act, which calls for DHS to issue a do-not-load order for any container the department identifies as high risk unless it is first scanned with a nonintrusive imagery device and nuclear or radiological detection equipment.

The SAFE Port Act calls for DHS to develop next-generation supply chain technologies to increase the volume of containers screened before they are shipped to the United States. DHS should evaluate battery powered portable neutron and gamma-ray detection devices, the bill states.

The bill also specifies that DHS should set up an International Trade Data System that would be a single, uniform data system for the electronic collection, dissemination, and sharing of import and export information.

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