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Gimenez Delivers Opening Remarks For Subcommittee Hearing on Port Security Vulnerabilities

May 10, 2023

Gimenez Delivers Opening Remarks For Subcommittee Hearing on Port Security Vulnerabilities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security Chairman Carlos Gimenez (R-FL) delivered the following opening remarks during a hearing on port security vulnerabilities.

The full hearing is livestreamed here.

This subcommittee’s hearing today will discuss security vulnerabilities at our nation’s maritime ports. Ports are essential to our way of life in the United States.

The United States is a maritime nation, with 361 commercial ports, 25,000 miles of navigable channels, and 95,000 miles of shoreline. Maritime shipping is a critical component of our nation’s economy.

Approximately 90 percent of imports and exports enter and exit the United States by ship, generating over $4 trillion of economic activity each year. Maritime ports are also essential to our military’s ability to respond to threats and project power overseas. During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the Navy’s Military Sealift Command delivered more than 12 million tons equipment, vehicles, and materiel, facilitating the massive coalition force that ejected Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait. Our military cannot operate for sustained periods of time without functioning, secure maritime ports at home that facilitate the strategic sealift mission.

Additionally, maritime ports are vital assets to our communities. Waterborne commerce supports 28.5 million direct and indirect jobs across the United States. As the former Mayor of Miami Dade, home to the Port of Miami, I understand personally how important ports can be to their local communities.

Maritime ports present soft targets to our adversaries, and large-scale operational disruptions at a major port could have a debilitating effect on our country. Therefore, it is critical that we understand and address the security vulnerabilities at our maritime ports. This subcommittee has already begun its work on this topic.

Our subcommittee has engaged with DHS, the FBI, and the Department of Transportation to ensure resources are being appropriately allocated based on the evolving port threat landscape. Last month, the subcommittee heard from officials representing four different port authorities who discussed the challenges their organizations are facing and opportunities to mitigate these challenges.

Among the challenges we heard about from this panel was the alarming potential capabilities of nation states – in particular the People’s Republic of China – and non-state actors to collect intelligence, steal sensitive data, and disrupt operations at our ports. I’m especially concerned about the cranes and other equipment and technology in use at ports across the United States that are manufactured by PRC state-owned entities and the opportunity for backdoor access to sensitive port infrastructure.

I have long advocated for federal agencies with responsibility for port cybersecurity to do more to address potential cybersecurity threats related to Chinese-made equipment and technology.

Last year, I introduced legislation that limits the operation of foreign cranes and software at U.S. ports. We must remain vigilant in our fight against potential catastrophic events to our port infrastructure.

Today, we are joined by leaders from the U.S Coast Guard, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the Transportation Security Administration, who are leading the federal government’s efforts to protect our nation’s maritime ports.

I look forward to discussing this important topic with our distinguished witnesses.