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Port Security Gets Attention

March 28, 2002

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The nation's intermodal ports, where ships unload cargo containers filled with international goods that are transferred to trucks and rail, remain a huge security concern.
Container in Manhattan
Container in Manhattan

CBS' "60 Minutes" recently featured the problem, and a Congressional hearing last Tuesday discussed the fact that the Port of New York and New Jersey could be a terrorist target.
The March 24 "60 Minutes" segment reported that U.S. Customs can inspect just 2 percent of the 6 million cargo containers entering the U.S. each year, raising fears that terrorists could smuggle weapons of mass destruction in on a container.
"The system is vulnerable," Robert Bonner, commissioner of Customs, told "60 Minutes'" Steve Kroft. "I mean the movement and the potential for concealing a terrorist weapon inside a cargo container." But Bonner is confident that the 2 percent of containers inspected are the right ones. "We're pretty good at determining those containers that might pose a risk [in which] a terrorist or a terrorist weapon might be smuggled," Bonner says.
Meanwhile Tuesday, six congressmen from New Jersey attended a Congressional hearing at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's temporary headquarters. The Journal of Commerce reported that the hearing attracted wide media attention, no doubt in part due to the "60 Minutes" report.
Rep. Frank LoBiondo, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, has co-sponsored the Maritime Transportation Antiterrorism Act of 2002.
Rep. Robert Menendez, who said the port represents a "huge opportunity for those who wish to do us harm," according to JOC, said that any legislation addressing port security needed to consider the fact that not all ports are alike and avoid a "cookie-cutter approach."
Most ports have instituted additional security measures since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many of which affect intermodal drivers, including background checks and port-issued IDs.

For more on the "60 Minutes" report, visit CBS' web site.

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