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November 18, 2002

Landmark maritime security legislation set for signature
On Thursday, November 14, the Senate, by a vote of 95-0, approved the conference report to The Maritime Security Act of 2002 (S. 1214), legislation to significantly improve security at the nation's seaports. Initially introduced in 2000, the bill is the culmination of a two-year effort by Sen. Fritz Hollings and Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) to close the security gaps that exist at ports along America's coasts. The legislation also reauthorizes the Coast Guard for the first time since 1998 and increases its funding and personnel levels.

The legislation was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives late Thursday night and now awaits the President's signature.

The “Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002” (S. 1214), which was approved by a voice vote, was negotiated by House and Senate Members as a compromise to the two separate maritime security bills that were approved earlier by the two chambers.

U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he was pleased the new bill included virtually every measure that was in the House maritime security legislation (H.R. 3983) that was approved on June 4th.

The original House bill had been introduced by Rep. Young, Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), Ranking Democrat, Transportation Committee, Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Chairman, Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, and Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL), Ranking Democrat, Coast Guard Subcommittee

What's in the legislation? Here's a summary of its main points issued by the House Committee on Transportation. The legislation:

  • Requires the Coast Guard to conduct vulnerability assessments of U.S. ports.  The results of the assessments will be used to implement a national maritime transportation security planning system, consisting of a comprehensive national plan, specific area plans, and local vessel and marine facility plans.
  • Establishes a requirement for the Coast Guard to assess the effectiveness of security systems in certain foreign ports, and to deny entry to vessels from ports that do not maintain effective security.
  • Individuals who enter secure areas on vessels or facilities will be required to have background checks and transportation security cards issued by the Federal government.
  • Authorizes grants for enhanced facility security at U.S. ports for the next six fiscal years.  These grants will help cover the costs of port security improvements and fund research and development projects to determine which technologies will improve port security.
  • Contains several provisions to improve the security of containers.  The bill requires the Secretary of the Department in which the Coast Guard is operating to maintain a cargo tracking, identification and screening system for shipping containers shipped to and from the United States.
  • Requires the establishment of performance standards to enhance the physical security of shipping containers, including standards for container seals and locks.
  • Contains other important security enhancements concerning enhanced vessel crewmember identification, Coast Guard sea marshals, and vessel transponders to track the movement of vessels in U.S. waters.
  • Contains several additional security enhancements and other Coast Guard provisions previously passed by the House, including:
  • Authorizes expenditures for the U.S. Coast Guard for fiscal year 2003.  Title five of the bill authorizes approximately $6 billion for Coast Guard programs and operations for fiscal year 2003.  The bill funds the Coast Guard at the levels requested by the President.  An injection of $550 million in additional operating resources will also allow the Coast Guard to address chronic budget shortfalls.
  • Authorizes $725 million for Coast Guard acquisitions.  This funding will help support recapitalization of the Coast Guard’s vital assets, especially the Coast Guard’s Deepwater program.

Click here for a more comprehensive legislative summary prepared by Senator Hollings' office.

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