House passes port security bill passes

The U.S. House of Representatives in May overwhelmingly voted to pass H.R. 4954, the Security and Accountability for Every Port Act (SAFE). According to Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president, government affairs for the New York-based Direct Marketing Association, the act is likely to also pass the Senate and then be signed into law by President Bush, perhaps by the end of the year.

The bill focuses on enhancing the security at U.S. ports, preventing threats from reaching the U.S., and tracking and protecting containers en route to the country. Among the main provisions of the bill, the Department of Homeland Security must

  • check all port employees against terrorist watch lists

  • establish standards for securing containers within 180 days

  • conduct additional research on port security technology
  • put into place by Sept. 30, 2007, enough radiation monitors to check 98% of the cargo coming into the U.S.

The legislation also proposes spending more than $5.5 billion during the next six years to strengthen port security at 140 locations.

“Port security is a huge issue and this is a move by Congress to shore up our ports,” Cerasale says. “A lot of DMA members have a huge amount of merchandise coming through the ports.”

While Cerasale does not see the bill as having a negative effect on commerce, marketers could see some costs increasing in order to ensure compliance. And merchants may find that their goods could take longer to get into the ports, since everyone will be required to present proper identification to enter.