NORFOLK, Va. The Virginia Port Authority doesn't think that it's getting enough money from the federal government to pay for port security requirements mandated three years ago.
So it's raising at least some of the money itself. The Virginia Port Authority's board voted unanimously Tuesday to impose a new security fee on all cargo containers entering the state-owned terminals. Beginning on July 1, all containers will get charged a $2 fee. Breakbulk cargo cargo not on containers will get a similar fee.
The move follows similar moves in Savannah, Ga.; Charleston, S.C.; and Houston and at private companies like Maersk Sealand that add a port security fee some based on per-container rates, some based on the size of the ship coming in.
Based on last year's traffic numbers in Virginia, the security fee would have raised $1.7 million a year for the port security. And traffic numbers are going up, meaning that more money will be raised.
"It's all going to be for costs directly related to mandated security costs," said the authority's security director, Ed Merkle. "There will no windfall profits if you will."
Since Sept. 11, 2001, port security costs have spiked nationwide. The Virginia Port Authority, for example, plans to spend $5.46 million in port security this year, up 54 percent from the $3.55 million that it spent in 1999.
A federal port security fee, which has been proposed in Congress, has been resisted by the American Association of Port Authorities. It contends that the entire country not just one industry should help pay for security efforts that were mandated by Congress and that benefit the entire nation.
Grants financed by all taxpayers, the association argues, should pay for such efforts.
But the grants aren't happening in the amounts that many ports want. Some ports, up to now including Virginia, have been loathe to impose their own security fees, out of fear the practice could cause companies to shift business to other ports.
Merkle contended Tuesday that though grants were still the preferred answer over security fees, now was a critical time for security money.
Warranties on much of the security equipment that the port bought in recent years are running out, and the grants don't pay for operations and maintenance, he said.