2006-03-31 / Community

Meeks Gives Support To SOS Act

Congressman Gregory W. Meekshas released the following statement at a press conference with US Reps Jerold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney calling for the passage of Sail Only if Scanned (S.O.S.) Act, H.R. 4899, a bill introduced by Rep. Nadler and Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota, the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee:

"Today, Democrats are putting forward a meaningful initiative to protect the American people. I am very pleased to cosponsor legislation introduced by Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York and Rep. Jim Oberstar of Minnesota, the Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee aimed at safeguarding America's ports. Their bill, which is entitled the Sail Only If Scanned Act or SOS, would make sure that 100 percent of the containers shipped to the United States are screened long before they come into our ports. SOS would ensure that the screening information is made available to the U.S. port security officials, and that tamper-proof seals are put on all scanned containers.

"The Nadler-Oberstar bill would put an end to the disgraceful and embarrassing situation that currently exists. As we stand here, only 6 percent of containers coming into U.S. ports are scanned. In other words, four and a half years after 9/11, a nuclear, radiological, biological, or chemical weapons could be brought into the United States on 94 percent of the containers coming through our ports.If such weapons can be shipped undetected into our ports because they are not inspected, they can be placed on trucks or railroad cars, and transported down any street, over any highway, and into any city in the United States.This is a totally unacceptable situation. This is taking a totally unnecessary risk.

The Bush Administration and the Republican Congress cannot make excuses about this sad and dangerous state of affairs. First of all, the technology exists to scan not 6 percent, not 60 percent, not 96 percent, but 100 percent of the containers carried on ships to the United States.Second, the technology exists to accomplish this.One hundred percent of the 11 million containers that are shipped each year through Hong Kong's terminals are screened before they enter and leave Hong Kong's ports.We owe it to the American people, we owe to our trading partners, and we owe it to the safety and security of global commerce to do at least as well as Hong Kong.

"U.S. seaports handle over 95% of our foreign trade, totaling more than $1 trillion annually. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach receive 42% of the total container imports to the U.S. The Lower Mississippi Waterway and the Houston Ship Channel receive 50% of the U.S. tanker imports, mostly of oil. New York and Newark ports handle a great deal of the imports and exports of the Northeastern United States.Over 10 million shipping containers come into the country's seaports - that's about 27,000 containers per day.An attack on any of our major seaports would disrupt the U.S. and the global economy.

"The SOS Act, HR H.R. 4899, makes sense and will only cost just a few cents compared to the cost a major disruption of port operations at any of our major terminals. The Coast Guard puts the costs of securing our ports at $5.4 billion a year.To date, the Administration has only provided $700 million in port security grant funding. The cost of implementing SOS would be minimal, especially when compared with the cost of doing nothing. It will cost about $6.50 to scan each container. Shipping companies could absorb this cost with virtually no impact on the cost of consumer goods.

"Again, I am pleased to support the Sail Only If Scanned Act. And again, I commend my colleagues, Jerry Nadler and Jim Oberstar for the leadership they are giving to making America safer and more secure by introducing HR 4899. I hope that neither the Administration nor congressional Republicans will obstruct this measure when it comes up for a vote shortly in the House Homeland Security Committee and, hopefully, very soon on the House floor."

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