Leaked report details flaws in ports' truck security

| 3/10/2006

A leaked report from Immigration and Customs Enforcement has shone a spotlight on some security holes at the Ports of New York and New Jersey – particularly when it comes to truckers.

ABC News reported Tuesday, March 7, than an investigation conducted by the Department of Homeland Security found, of 9,000 port truckers that were checked, nearly half had evidence of criminal records and more than 500 had bogus driver’s licenses.

Dean Boyd, press secretary for ICE, told Land Line that his department – which is a division of Homeland Security – handled the investigation and was working to figure out how it got leaked. He said now that parts of the report have been made public, the investigation into security at the ports has been compromised, though he did not say how.

A news release from ICE said the report was “part of the Department of Homeland Security’s continuing efforts to identify and close down vulnerabilities at the New York and New Jersey seaports.”

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey uses the Sea Link identification system to provide identification cards for drivers. The ICE investigation found that 33 of the truckers who had those cards were identified in narcotics-related offenses, while others were involved in drug smuggling, according to ABC News.

Meanwhile, Port Authority officials announced a new security initiative on March 7, though it did not say whether it was connected to the investigation.

At a press conference, the Port Authority officials said they would form a task force, led by Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia, which will study ways to enhance security. The task force is expected to develop recommendations in six months.

According to a press release, the Port Authority also has a pilot program under way to track the status of 25 cargo containers from their points of origin to their destinations. The first containers in the program are expected to arrive at the ports by March 13.

The Port Authority did not specifically address the issue of truckers or truck security.

In related news, a security official from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union testified before the House Coast Guard and Maritime and Transportation Subcommittee Thursday, March 9, regarding the dangers of a lapse in port security.

Gary Brown, security liaison for the union, urged the committee to “recognize and correct the immediate, major deficiencies in security that exist today in America’s ports,” according to a transcript.

Brown recommended steps be taken to increase security in the areas of identification, hazardous materials, container seals, worker training, and cargo documentation.

Brown singled out truck drivers as a particular concern when it comes to identification.

“Access (to ports) is granted with little authentication of identity and virtually no inspection of their sleeper cabs, which frequently house friends and family,” he said. “Ironically, these drivers, once inside the terminals, have unlimited access to all areas of the terminals without oversight or supervision.”

– By Terry Scruton, senior writer