NEW YORK — U.S. ports devoted most of their resources in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to becoming more secure. For Beth Rooney, manager of port security for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the next challenge is securing the supply chain from factory to destination.
“We focused heavily on physical security of our facilities immediately after 9/11,” said Rooney, a 14-year veteran of the Port Authority. “Now we’re trying to identify the right balance of processes, policy and technology that can increase security of the supply chain from origin to destination in the most cost effective way.”
Achieving that balance is going to be a long and costly effort for the Port Authority, the nation’s third-largest port system, as well as ports across the nation. The U.S. Coast Guard has estimated that the cost of meeting new security and antiterrorism standards at 361 ports in the next decade will be $5.4 billion. During a monthly seminar sponsored by international trade association Nexco in June, Rooney said the Port Authority already had spent $30 million updating basic security features, such as fencing, lighting, access control systems and emergency notification systems.
While the Port Authority is responsible for securing public areas and critical infrastructure, the port facilities and container terminals must provide security within their gates. In the port of New York and New Jersey, there are almost 190 facilities, Rooney said. Just 13 of those are directly owned by the Port Authority and only two are operated by the agency.
The problem confronting Rooney and those in charge of facility security throughout the country is that the concept of cargo security has been transformed.
“Containerization has been designed to keep things in a container,” Rooney said. “We’re now in the business of trying to keep bad things out.”
It’s a difficult task, considering that container traffic at the New York-New Jersey port rose 10.1 percent in 2004 to 4.5 million containers. Further complicating matters is the short time frame of experience.
“The vast majority of folks in container terminals that are doing security were not doing security prior to 9/11,” Rooney said. “Folks like that have had to take on security, as well.”
The Coast Guard has issued standards that facilities must meet, but Rooney said there is no testing or certification of those who have been given the job of overseeing security. “Cargo security is essentially voluntary,” she said.
The result is a nationwide system with huge gaps in maintaining that security. During the Nexco seminar in June, Rooney cited the ports being used to deliver a weapon of mass destruction as one of the three greatest threats to the system. Scuttling a ship to block a major channel and the use of the ships themselves as weapons are the other chief concerns.
“We need to be just as focused on recovering from an event as we are on preventing it,” Rooney said during the seminar.
The stakes are particularly high for the Port of New York and New Jersey, which had a 58.5 percent share of the Atlantic coast shipping market in 2004 and generated 229,000 jobs.
Rooney focuses much of her efforts on being an advocate for the facilities, examining how pending legislation will affect operations or the impact of new technologies on the supply chain. She also promotes communication among ports. For example, last week the Port Authority invited federal, state and local agencies to a meeting to display new emergency response equipment.
“It was sort of a show-and-tell so people knew what was available,” Rooney said. “Now they know what people have, their capabilities and who to call.”
Firefighters also have been given ship orientations and guidelines on how to fight a fire on board a vessel.
“Security is not a competitive issue,” Rooney said. “If … something happened on the West Coast, it’s going to affect us, as well. We’re talking to each other all the time.”