How U.S. Ports Queue Up for Federal Security Grants

Cut-throat jockeying is set to begin among US ports for some $175m of federal grant money expected to be doled out during fiscal 2006 under the port security grants programme, writes Rajesh Joshi in New York .

A potent method to make your begging bowl appear the most deserving is punctiliously to hew your grant demand to the format and guidelines laid out in the federal application packet, a senior Washington official advised the MarineLog conference audience in Washington.

It would also help to establish how closely your own fiscal need matches federal anti-terror goals. Thomas Robison, director of transport and intermodal security at the US Department of Homeland Security's Office of Domestic Preparedness, recounted how the $150m disbursed towards port security in fiscal 2005 was parcelled out under a revised scheme that took into account a risk matrix that ranked ports.

Only 66 ports out of some 361 said to exist in the US qualified as risky enough and thus eligible for the largesse, leaving several players with heavy axes to grind. The fact that there is no US federal definition of a port only compounded the issue, Mr Robison said.

Jay Grant, director of the lobbying coalition Port Security Council of America, told the audience that the $175m available in this year's funding round, the sixth since September 11, 2001, is expected to be disbursed among a set of 100 'most critical' ports as against 66.

Disbursements are likely to be 'more fair' than in the past, but the increasing number of claimants is likely to mean smaller individual amounts, Mr Grant said.

Mr Grant did not make a fuss about the $175m, accepting as cold reality that the port industry is not going to obtain the billions of dollars it says it needs and wants in order to keep harbours secure.

However, the lobbyist claimed his office is slowly succeeding in 'educating' US lawmakers about the very validity of port security, and hence the legitimacy of the industry's claims to future billions.

'Day-long educational seminars' tailored towards politicians are doing just that and are increasing in popularity, Mr Grant said.

In addition, the council believes initiatives such as the GreenLane Maritime Security Act currently being flogged in the US Senate by Republican Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Patty Murray of Washington testify to the legislative momentum and credibility being gathered by port security.

The 2006 federal application kit is expected to become available in February, and the grants are expected to be made public in June. Aside from the port premises, the grants apply to facilities within a two-mile radius, as well as facilities outside two miles that fall within the ambit of the area maritime security plans, Mr Grant said.

Mr Grant advised aspirants that 'maritime domain awareness', a new concept gathering acclaim in the corridors of power, would be a 'big phrase' in how successful grant applications would be prepared and evaluated.

[Lloyds List -- 02/01/06]