Port Security Task Force Commences In Lower Manhattan

Martin J. Golden

April 20, 2006

The Senate Majority Task Force on Port Security, local business & government leaders, and area law enforcement this week met at a public hearing in Lower Manhattan to discuss the need to improve security at Coastal Waterways in New York’s Port facilities.

The Task Force was created in February in response to the potential risks associated with the sale of the Port of New York operations to Dubai Ports World. The mission of the public hearing is to ascertain additional measures to ensure the safety and security of New York ports.

"Since September 11, 2001 we’ve made very serious progress in protecting our borders and residents from the threat of terrorist attacks," said Senator Frank Padavan, Chair of the Senate Majority Task Force on Port Security. "One place that has been lacking is Port Security and today’s hearing is one of many steps that will move New York in the right direction."

Joining Senator Padavan at the Manhattan hearing, were several members of the Task Force and their representatives including Senators Michael Balboni (East Williston, Long Island), Martin Golden (Brooklyn), Vincent Leibell (Patterson), Serphin Maltese (Queens), John Marchi (Staten Island) and Nick Spano (Westchester).

"Keeping our ports safe is essential to both our personal and economic security, said Senator Michael Balboni, (East Williston, Long Island), Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Homeland Security. "The lesson of the canceled Dubai Ports World transaction is that any transfer of our critical infrastructure to private ownership or operation must be closely scrutinized to ensure it poses no threat to our National security."

"We need our fair share of federal funding to make sure that our seaports are properly protected," said Senator Martin Golden (Brooklyn). "Securing our seaports and the 7 million ocean cargo containers that arrive annually is crucial to the economic security of our City, State and Nation. In addition, we must work to end the booming human trafficking trade, better known as modern day slavery. Hundreds of thousands of people are trafficked around the globe, many through our seaports in an estimated $7 billion industry."

The Senate Majority has introduced a package of new legislation aimed at increasing security at the Port of New York and New Jersey. The bills were recommended by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor as vital to further safeguarding the port waterfront area. Components of the legislative package have already been passed into law in New Jersey, but cannot go into effect at the port until the State of New York also acts.

The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor (WCNYH) was established in August of 1953. Under statutory mandate, the mission of the Commission is to investigate, deter, combat, and remedy criminal activity and influence in the Port of New York and New Jersey.

"The Waterfront Commission of the Ports of New York and New Jersey was established in 1953 under very different conditions," said Senator John Marchi (Staten Island). "After the hearings it will be clear that a number of the provisions of the compact that was established 56 years ago will have to be updated to meet the modern threats to the Port today."

Four bills, all introduced by different members of the Task Force, would;

Allow the Waterfront Commission to obtain disclosure from witnesses outside of the Commission’s jurisdiction of New York and New Jersey, and to temporarily suspend permits, licenses, and registrations pending disposition of a proceeding (S. 7109). The Commission has conducted numerous investigations in which out-of-state witnesses have refused to appear. This bill will give the Commission greater subpoena power,

Expand the Waterfront Commission’s ability to revoke or deny a license or registration to port workers associated with terrorism, racketeering or other organized crime groups (S. 6822),

Strengthen the Commission’s ability to revoke or deny a license or registration of port workers who are associated with illegal drug activity (S. 7181), and

Provide for the licensing of docking pilots in the waters of the ports of New York and New Jersey and for criminal history checks of applicants (S. 4782),

Members of the Task Force received testimony about port security from the Director of the Port Commerce Department of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Richard M. Larrabee, Rear Admiral, U.S.C.G. (Ret.); Commanding Officer of the Special Operations Division of the New York City Police Department, Assistant Chief Charles Kammerdener; Polytechnic University President Jerry MacArthur Hultin; SUNY Maritime President John W. Craine, Jr., Vice Admiral, U.S.N. (Ret.); Director of the New York State Strategic Center for Port and Maritime Security John Cochrane; Executive Director of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor Thomas De Maria; and Vice President of Operations for New York Container Terminal, Inc. John Atkins.

James W. McMahon, Director of the NYS Office of Homeland Security, and Frank McDonough, President of the New York Shipping Association, Inc. have also submitted written testimony for the hearing.