MIAMI -- U.S. port agencies plan to apply for more than $222
million in grants under the Transportation Department's new port
security grants program, far more than the $93.3 million Congress
appropriated, port officials said.
According to the American Association of Port Authorities
(AAPA), U.S. ports have spent nearly $50 million on security
measures since Sept. 11, including new personnel, gate controls,
surveillance systems, lighting and fencing.
"We need help to sustain security," said Kurt Nagle, chief
executive of the AAPA, at the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention
Nagle said current resources aren't enough to coordinate all the
different levels of law enforcement that patrol the ports or to pay
for necessary security upgrades.
"Funding for port security is critical," he said. "Seaport
security always has been important; since Sept. 11, it is a top
According to the AAPA, more than 6 million North American cruise
passengers passed through port authorities in 2000.
The Senate in December passed a bill that would provide $390
million in grants and $166 million in loan guarantees for security
enhancements at ports and cruise terminals over a five-year
The bill, S. 1214, also calls for the DOT to coordinate maritime
security and asks for additional funding for U.S. Customs and the
A similar bill is scheduled to be introduced in the House this
month, Nagle said.
Although cruise terminal representatives admitted there are no
guarantees that port security is impenetrable, George Williamson,
port director of the Tampa (Fla.) Port Authority, said, "The cruise
business is probably the safest form of entertainment out
Maritime safety measures continue to operate at the highest
level, Nagle said, which includes use of drug- and
chemical-sniffing dogs, diving teams that inspect slips before the
ship arrives, additional security checks for passengers and
increased surveillance networks.
Williamson said cruise passengers can sometimes go through as
many as seven different security checks before embarkation.
"Cruise passengers are incredibly resilient," he said. "Their
sense is this is for their well-being."
But, he added, "hopefully, [new] technology will speed this
along, and passengers can be identified as they come on board."