Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2003

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


APPOINTMENT OF CONFEREES ON H.R. 2443, COAST GUARD AND MARITIME TRANSPORTATION ACT OF 2003 -- (House of Representatives - May 06, 2004)

Mr. LoBIONDO. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to take from the Speaker's table the bill (H.R. 2443) to authorize appropriations for the Coast Guard for fiscal year 2004, to amend various laws administered by the Coast Guard, and for other purposes, with Senate amendments thereto, disagree to the Senate amendments, and agree to the conference asked by the Senate.

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Fossella). Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from New Jersey?

There was no objection.

MOTION TO INSTRUCT OFFERED BY MR. FILNER

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I offer a motion to instruct conferees.

The Clerk read as follows:

Mr. FILNER moves that the managers on the part of the House at the conference on the disagreeing votes of the two Houses on the bill (H.R. 2443) to authorize appropriations for the Coast Guard for fiscal year 2004, to amend various laws administered by the Coast Guard, and for other purposes, be instructed to insist on the language contained in section 415 of the House bill that requires foreign-flag vessels to have their vessel security plans approved by the United States Coast Guard before entering a port in the United States.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the rule, the gentleman from California (Mr. Filner) will be recognized for 30 minutes and the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. LoBiondo) will be recognized for 30 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California (Mr. Filner).

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

The motion that the House has before it is really very simple. It instructs the House conferees on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act to insist on our House provision on section 415. Section 415 simply clarifies that all foreign-flag vessels that may be involved in a security incident in the United States must submit their vessel security plans to the Coast Guard for their review and approval before they enter the United States. It is pretty simple. We are trying to make sure that we do not have a terrorist incident caused by a ship coming to our shores.

We have seen clear evidence that terrorists have the means and capability to use vessels as a weapon. We all know about the attack on the U.S.S. Cole. Most recently, insurgents in Iraq blew up their boat filled with explosives when a U.S. boarding team tried to inspect their vessel. Two members of our Navy and one member of the Coast Guard died in that attack.

When this Congress enacted the Maritime Transportation Security Act in November of 2002, foreign vessel owners were clearly required to submit vessel security plans to the United States Coast Guard. They were prohibited from operating after July 1 of this year if those plans were not approved and if they were not operating in accordance with those plans.
But in the month after this MTSA, the Maritime Transportation Security Act, was enacted, the Coast Guard went to London and agreed to amendments to the Safety of Life At Sea Convention to require security standards for all vessels engaged in international trade. These amendments are called the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, or as we refer to them, the ISPS Code.

The Coast Guard never told Congress that they were intending to overturn the new security law by allowing foreign-flag vessels to enter the United States if their security plans were approved not by the Coast Guard but by the government in which the ship is flagged. As many Members know, thousands of ship owners choose to register their ships in so-called "flag of convenience" countries. The ship owners do this to save money because they know that these governments flaunt international law by not enforcing the international maritime conventions to which they are a party.

Mr. Speaker, our Nation has learned a great deal about terrorism since 9/11. One thing we have clearly learned is that not every nation in the world is our friend. Each day hundreds of ships enter U.S. ports with dangerous and hazardous cargoes.
A weapon of mass destruction, a biological agent could easily be smuggled aboard a vessel in a foreign port. Look at some of the largest registries in the world, like Panama, Malta and Cyprus, and you will find vessels that are often detained by the Coast Guard for violations of international safety laws. Now we expect those same governments to protect U.S. citizens by making sure that their vessels have adequately implemented security plans? Give me a break! I for one am not willing to delegate our security responsibilities to the governments of Panama or Malta or Cyprus.

I raised this issue with the Coast Guard at two separate hearings. The Coast Guard argued that they do not have the resources to approve the security plans for the thousands of foreign-flag vessels that come to our country. I have a simple thing to say, as I said to the commandant: send us a budget request, and we will fight for every nickel you need to review and approve the foreign vessel security plans. The resources will be there if you ask for them. But do not compromise the security of our coastal communities and our whole Nation by placing our security in the hands of these foreign governments.

When Congress wrote the Maritime Transportation Security Act in 2002, we realized that it is up to the United States Government through the United States Coast Guard to protect our citizens. I urge my colleagues, Mr. Speaker, to support the motion to instruct the conferees on H.R. 2443 to insist on the House provisions requiring all foreign-flag vessels, any one of which may be a potential terrorist threat, to submit their security plans to the Coast Guard for review and approval before they enter the United States. We ask this in law. We ask now to reinforce the law.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. LoBIONDO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

On behalf of Chairman Young and myself, I have a couple of remarks about this motion. We support section 415 and allowed it to be included in the House bill with the agreement that we would continue to work to improve the language. It is very important that we ensure that all vessels, including foreign vessels, have security plans. However, to protect the United States, we need to support the Coast Guard's efforts as they board and inspect vessels coming into U.S. waters.

However, the Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security have expressed strong concerns about the current House language. They are concerned about requiring submission and secretarial approval of all foreign vessel security plans.
They are concerned that this requirement could undermine extensive progress on vessel security planning already made in the international arena and would impose an unsupportable resource drain on the Coast Guard. They are concerned that this could conflict with provisions of the Safety of Life At Sea Convention and the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code. This would place the United States at a significant disadvantage when demanding that other nations comply with their responsibilities and would significantly degrade our ability to negotiate new international requirements.

Additionally, other nations could retaliate and demand to review and approve U.S. security plans before our vessels were allowed to trade in their ports. I believe that this is a real danger. Ultimately, the sharing of sensitive U.S. vessel security plans with all nations may not be in the best interests of our own national security. I would like to continue to explore whether acceptance of foreign vessel security plans approved under the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code with aggressive Coast Guard verification and enforcement might better achieve our national maritime security goals.

There is concern that the number of plans that could potentially be subject to review is staggering. Worldwide, there are approximately 40,000 vessels required to have security plans. If section 415 were enacted, the Coast Guard would be required to review the security plan of each of these vessels that wanted to visit the United States. In recent years, approximately 8,000 vessels per year have visited the United States, making roughly 50,000 port calls.

Without significant additional resources, our diversion of resources from some other area, the Coast Guard could not accomplish this review and approval process in a timely manner. The cost of this effort would be substantial, and the Coast Guard is not funded in this effort.

The gentleman from Alaska (Mr. Young) and I pledge to continue to work with our colleagues and the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar), the Democratic ranking member, and the gentleman from California (Mr. Filner) to address their concerns on this homeland security issue.

Today we will support this motion, but would strongly recommend that we continue to discuss this issue with the Coast Guard and the maritime shipping industry and our colleagues in the other body to improve and merge our other bills to ensure that the country and our security is protected.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I was a little surprised the gentleman was going to accept the motion after speaking out against it, but I appreciate that, and I hope we fight for this at the conference committee.

Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DeFazio).

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I have been informed that there are no ships with American flags going to Liberia.

Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar), ranking member of the full Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I object to the vote on the ground that a quorum is not present, and make the point of order that a quorum is not present.

Skip to top
Back to top