LoBIONDO & PASCRELL APPLAUD TODAY'S COMMITTEE-APPROVAL OF THEIR PORT SECURITY LEGISLATION
Additional Amendment by LoBiondo would Set Firm Deadlines for DHS to Implement Transportation Worker Identification Card, Long-Range Vessel Tracking Systems
WASHINGTON, D.C. - House Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02) and Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. (NJ-08) today applauded the approval of their "Maritime Terminal Security Enhancement Act" by the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee today. As currently required at the nation's airports, LoBiondo-Pascrell's legislation would seek to amend the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA) to require the nation's facility security officers (FSO) for terminals at every U.S. port be legal U.S. citizens.
"I am pleased the full Committee recognized the critical importance of my bipartisan legislation which seeks to close the current loop-hole in the Maritime Transportation Security Act, and acted accordingly. I strongly believe that allowing non-U.S. citizens, whose interests could run counter to our homeland security, to be in charge of terminal security at our ports would only increase the vulnerability of these critical facilities," said Chairman LoBiondo. "While the Dubai Ports debacle has seemingly been resolved, it is my hope that Congress remains committed to comprehensively examine existing shortcomings in port security, and decisively act to protect these vital assets to our nation's economy."
"The Transportation Committee action taken today will plug critical holes in our port security exposed by the Dubai Ports deal," stated Pascrell. "By granting additional oversight to the U.S. Coast Guard in regulating port transactions, and prohibiting companies from allowing non-U.S. citizen to be responsible for security, we took an important step forward in protecting our ports, and increasing the safety of the American public. I applaud Congressman LoBiondo's leadership on this endeavor and am confident that this legislation will move quickly through Congress with strong bipartisan support."
Current law dictates that a FSO be present for every port terminal though does not have a citizenship requirement. The bill would also dictate that any change in ownership of U.S. port terminals would require the Coast Guard to review and re-approve the existing or proposed changes to the terminal security plan. LoBiondo-Pascrell's legislation was introduced on March 6, 2006 with 26 cosponsors.
Additionally, during the mark-up today, the House Committee adopted an amendment offered by Chairman LoBiondo, with Congressman Pascrell's support, that would:
* require the Coast Guard to periodically reassess foreign ports' compliance with international maritime antiterrorism measures at least every 5 years;
* require DHS to issue regulations to require foreign merchant mariners to carry enhanced crew-member identification credentials when operating in U.S. ports or on U.S. waters;
* require DHS to develop and implement a long-range vessel tracking system by April 1, 2007 and institute a voluntary pilot program to monitor vessels up to 2,000 nautical miles from U.S. shores until the mandatory system is operating;
* require DHS to establish a university-based Center of Excellence to develop and test technologies and procedures to enhance our awareness of activities occurring within the maritime domain; and,
* require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to issue regulations to implement the delay-riddled Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC card) by July 1st of this year;
In several Congressional hearings this year, Chairman LoBiondo raised his serious objections and frustrations with DHS Assistant Secretary Stewart Baker and other officials regarding the continued delays in maritime transportation security initiatives, including the National Maritime Transportation Security Plan and the TWIC card. While the national security plan was just delivered to Congress last month after more than an 18-month delay, nearly two years later, the TWIC program has no implementation date established by DHS.
"Despite the fact that DHS officials have testified before Congress that the TWIC card is one of their highest priorities, there is no funding request this year by the Department for nation-wide implementation of the program. Clearly, DHS and the U.S. Congress have very different understandings of the definition of highest priority.' My amendment will reinforce to DHS the critical importance of this common-sense program and instruct them to devote the necessary resources without further delay," concluded Chairman LoBiondo.