NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 12, 2006

Despite millions of dollars spent bolstering security in the Los Angeles-Long Beach harbor complex since Sept. 11, maritime security experts, government officials and shipping industry leaders say the security risks are still huge:

  • Tightening port security, they say, has proved complicated; not only have costs been daunting, shippers have been extremely wary of anti-terrorist measures that would slow port operations.
  • As a result, significant improvements are still needed to prevent worst-case scenarios from becoming reality in the nation's largest seaport.

The problem is partly one of scope, say officials:

  • Together, the ports handle more than 40 percent of containerized cargo shipped to and from the United States.
  • Adjacent refineries fed by marine oil terminals produce a quarter of the gasoline and other petroleum products consumed west of the Rocky Mountains.
  • Almost a million people live in cities immediately surrounding the harbor area.

If terrorists were to explode a 10-kiloton nuclear bomb in the Port of Long Beach, Rand Corp. researchers recently calculated, it could kill 60,000 people instantly, expose 150,000 more to hazardous levels of radiation and result in more than $1 trillion in economic losses, at least 10 times the financial loss in the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center five years ago.

So far, Long Beach has received about $33 million in federal port security grants out of $89 million requested.  Los Angeles has received $26.6 million, a quarter of what it sought.

Both ports would receive substantially more for security if pending federal and state legislation is approved.  A federal measure would provide about $9 billion over six years for the nation's ports, while a state bill would generate about $150 million a year for California harbors.

Source: Dan Weikel, "Danger Abides at L.A.'s Ports; Despite millions spent on security, experts see the vast complex as a vulnerable target," Los Angeles Times, September 11, 2006.


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