Port of Memphis to Get New Security System

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Port of Memphis, the nation's fourth largest inland port, will update its security system as part of a $6.5 million grant from the federal Department of Homeland Security. DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff announced Tuesday that Memphis was among 36 cities approved for funds specifically for protecting and securing ports and maritime facilities.

"A significant amount of industry moves through this port," said Tennessee Homeland Security Interim Director Rick Shipkowski. "An attack against Memphis would disrupt commerce greatly."

The money has been slotted for 44 cameras with night-vision features and protective fencing on the Interstate 55 and Interstate 40 bridges that cross the Mississippi River, according to the Memphis and Shelby County Port Commission.

DHS awarded $141.9 million in all, with Memphis to get one of the largest grants. Cities were chosen through a risk-based formula that measured threat, vulnerability and consequence.

Shipkowski said that his department worked with the port commission in Memphis to apply for these funds.

"We've been recieving port security grants since 2003," Shipkowski said, "but certainly this is the largest."

Some critics, such as U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., said the grant should have come sooner for the second largest Mississippi River port. Shipkowski said the grant is timely.

(c) 2005 Associated Press