Port Hosts Lawmakers: Both Pledge Security Cooperation

Two Houston area congressmen say the more cooperation the better between lawmkers in Washington and the Houston Port Authority. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, Democrats Gene Green and Al Greene took a tour of the port today and say they'll do all they can to ensure the best security possible there.

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The tour included a visit to the nerve center of Port security, what's known as the Port Coordination Center that monitors what comes and goes. Security has become a difficult game of catch-up for many ports, including Houston's, with increasing pressure to implement the latest devices to thwart the bad guys, who could in the worst case scenario, be terrorists. Congressman Gene Green says security at the Port of Houston gets better every year.

"I've seen it expand and I learned a lot today where we're at compared to three years ago and there's been a great deal of progress, with the monitoring, with the technology. But sure as I'm standing here today a year from now there will be even better technology and that's our job is to make sure they have the federal resources to protect us."

Green was hosting a new member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Congressman Al Green, who says he's impressed by what he sees at the Port and hopes to help secure additional funding for enhanced security.

"They've given us a pretty good explanation as to how they have perfected a system that seems to work fairly well. It's not a perfect system, but they are working to continually perfect it and I believe that with our assistance they will be able to stay a part of the avant-garde when it comes to modern technology, surveillance, the new methods and techniques. They'll be right in the game."

Because the Port of Houston ranks first in the United States in foreign waterborne tonnage, officials are fully aware of the security and terrorist ramifications there. Most ports across the nation have had to significantly improve their security since 9-11. The Port's Managing Director Wade Battles says cooperation between lawmakers and the Port is crucial.

"It's developing an understanding of really what the challenges are because quite often it's misrepresented as to what the challenges are and what are we trying to accomplish and who has what responsibilities. So the better informed they can be than we can communicate much clearer and resolve our problems and get the assistance we need from Washington to address these issues."

Each year, more than 6000 boats dock at the Port of Houston.

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