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Maritime and Port Security: A Comparison of Major Provisions of S. 1214 and H.R. 3983

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Congress is considering legislation to enhance security at U.S. seaports. The September 11 terrorist attack has raised concerns that a sea container could be used to transport a weapon of mass destruction. An interagency commission on crime and security at U.S. ports found that with a few exceptions, the level of security at U.S. ports was poor to fair. This report compares major provisions in S. 1214, which passed the Senate with an amendment, and H.R. 3983, which passed the House as amended. Five areas of the legislation are examined: federal funding, plans and programs for coordinating security, efforts to enhance foreign seaport security, cargo security provisions, and restrictions on access to certain areas within a port.

As of November 12, 2002 conferees were working to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation.

Although both bills cover many of the same issues, there are differences in emphasis. These differences may be largely explained by the timing of the bills. S. 1214 was introduced before September 11, while H.R. 3983 was introduced six months after that date. H.R. 3983 is most concerned with deterring and minimizing damage from a possible terrorist act. S. 1214 is concerned with deterring terrorism, but also with reducing drug smuggling, cargo theft, trade fraud, and illegal alien smuggling. S. 1214 was introduced before the establishment of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in November, 2001 and thus contains no reference to it. H.R. 3983 is post-TSA and calls upon the agency, among other things, to develop an antiterrorism cargo identification and screening system. A side-by-side comparison of selected provisions of S. 1214 and H.R. 3983 is provided in Table 1.


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