May 20 2008

$3 million in federal money earmarked for port security

Mobile Press Register

By Kaija Wilkinson

Mobile will get almost $3 million from the federal government to beef up port security, part of $388.6 million the Department of Homeland Security plans to release to seaports under the 2008 Port Security Grant program, Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, and Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, announced Friday.

Sessions' office said the grant will enhance counter- terrorism training and improve the port's "ability to detect and prevent attacks of explosives and non-conventional weapons on the port's infrastructure."

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the department has invested more than $15 million in port security in Mobile, according to Hal Hudgins, vice president of planning and security at the Alabama State Port Authority. For example, a $3.26 million Department of Homeland Security grant issued last May paid for a closed-circuit television system at the port's rail facility, a wireless security network to link the Authority's facilities and a relay.

The plan for using the latest grant money is being crafted by the U.S. Coast Guard's Area Maritime Security Committee and will focus on "closing security gaps," Hudgins said. One identified need is counter-terrorism training for employees.

Hudgins said it could take a year to 18 months before the money is released.