DHS testifies before Senate committee on security of maritime ports

The DHS said on Wednesday that through the implementation of the SAFE Port Act and the Maritime Transportation Security Act, the U.S. has made strides to manage the risks posed to its maritime ports.

The DHS Office of Policy (PLCY), FEMA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration made the remarks before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Representatives from the agencies spoke during the hearing, which was called "Evaluating Port Security: Progress Made and Challenges Ahead."

The agencies said prior to the passage of the Security and Accountability For Every (SAFE) Port Act, the U.S. lacked the fully developed, multifaceted and layered approach it needed to mitigate natural, accidental or malicious risks and disruptions.

"The SAFE Port Act, touching as it did on most aspects of the overall maritime architecture, guided DHS' development of the current regime that includes the cargo and vessels that transit the supply chain as well as the ships, facilities, and workers that operate within that system," the agencies said. "DHS values the continued dialogue we have had with this committee over the years as we worked to implement the act's many provisions."

The SAFE Port Act was enacted in October 2006, four years after the passage of the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA). It codified new programs and amended some of the original provisions of the MTSA.

"With the implementation of MTSA and SAFE Port Act, DHS and its various components have made great strides to manage the risks posed to the MTS and other critical infrastructure by external elements," the agencies said. "Managing this risk has entailed the creation of a framework that uses a layered strategy to vet transportation workers, vessels, cargo and crew, beginning at international origin and continuing throughout the global supply chain. These efforts also require companies, vessels, facilities and other port stakeholders to examine and address potential vulnerabilities."

The agencies also discussed challenges to maritime security going forward, including the expansion of trade, aging infrastructure, the International Trade Data System, perimeter security and cybersecurity.