The two smartest people (in my opinion) on the topic of port security – CFR’s Steve Flynn and former DHS Deputy Secretary Adm. James Loy – have a co-signed op-ed in the New York Times today on the DPW case and the broader issue of port security. From the piece:
Ports are the on- and offramps to global markets, and they belong to a worldwide system operated by many different private and public entities. Since the United States cannot own and control all of that system, we must work with our trade partners and foreign companies to ensure its security. A major step in that direction would be to construct a comprehensive global container inspection system that scans the contents of every single container destined for America’s waterfront before it leaves a port â€” rather than scanning just the tiny percentage we do now….
Hutchison Port Holdings along with PSA Singapore Terminals, Dubai Ports World and Denmark’s APM Terminals handle nearly eight out of every 10 containers destined for the United States. If they agreed to impose a common security fee of roughly $20 per container, similar to what passengers are now used to paying when they purchase airline tickets, they could recover the cost of installing and operating this system worldwide. This, in turn, would furnish a powerful deterrent for terrorists who might be tempted to convert the ubiquitous cargo container into a poor man’s missile.
There is already a bipartisan bill that the White House and Congress could embrace to advance this effort. The GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security bill, co-sponsored by Senators Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, provides incentives for American importers to accept the modest fees associated with a global container inspection system. The bill would also establish minimum security standards and encourages the tracking and monitoring of containers throughout the supply chain.
Moreover, it would create joint operations centers within American ports to ensure that, should there be a terrorist incident or a heightened level of threat, the ports will respond in a coordinated, measured way that will allow the flow of commerce to resume when appropriate.
A global regime for container security will require oversight. Congress should require that the security plans developed by importers be independently audited. It should also provide the Department of Homeland Security with adequate Customs and Coast Guard inspectors to audit these auditors. Today Customs has only 80 inspectors to monitor the compliance of the 5,800 importers who have vowed to secure their goods as they travel from factories to ship terminals. To assess worldwide compliance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, the Coast Guard has just 20 inspectors â€” roughly the size of the average passenger screening team at an airport security checkpoint.
These are smart, sensible ideas by Flynn and Loy; hopefully there will be a vigorous debate on strengthening the port and cargo security system in the weeks and months ahead that moves them toward adoption.