Port Security a Major Concern on Gulf Coast

Fighting for resources, ports attempt to achieve compliance with Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002


Allee and his Gulfport predecessor, Port of New Orleans director Gary LaGrange, are members of the Gulf Seaports Marine Terminal Conference. The conference is there to help its 16 member ports coordinate security policies along the Gulf Coast.

LaGrange meets weekly with federal law enforcement officials and lends a cadre of his harbor police agents to the FBI, which trains them as strictly as any recruit. In the works for Gulfport is a high-tech security command center.

The GSMTC also imposed a tariff Feb. 15 on all vessels and cargo that use its members' public facilities.

McAndrews said the surcharges now being paid by Chevron, Northrop Grumman, Mississippi Phosphates, Signal and other Pascagoula-based shippers are vital boosts to his bottom line.

Frankie Duggan is the rare exception. He manages the Biloxi port, which sees mainly recreational activity, and said no federal homeland security money has been allotted to Biloxi.

"We haven't increased security," Duggan said. "We train people what to look for," via flyers posted on the dock and other homemade methods.

New Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff will manage Bush's suggested replacement for port security grants, a program called Targeted Infrastructure Protection.

The House Homeland Security Committee will take up the matter at its hearing on port and waterway security, to be held March 22 at the Vicksburg Convention Center at the urging of its top-ranked Democrat, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi's 2nd District.

Congressional Republicans will push to pass a budget resolution by the end of this week. A long appropriations process will follow, spearheaded by Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., two legislators with millions of coastal constituents.