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Highlights

U.S ports are significant to the U.S. economy, handling more than 2 billion tons of domestic and import/export cargo annually. Since Sept. 11, 2001, much of the national focus on ports' preparedness has been on preventing potential acts of terror, the 2005 hurricane season renewed focus on how to protect ports from a diversity of threats, including natural disasters. This report was prepared under the authority of the Comptroller General to examine (1) challenges port authorities have experienced as a result of recent natural disasters, (2) efforts under way to address these challenges, and (3) the manner in which port authorities plan for natural disasters. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed various port stakeholders from 17 major U.S. ports.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Homeland Security 1. To help ensure that ports achieve adequate planning for natural disasters and effectively manage risk to a variety of threats, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security should encourage port stakeholders to use existing forums for discussing all-hazards planning efforts and include appropriate representatives from DHS, the port authority, representatives from the local emergency management office, the Maritime Administration, and vessel and facility owner/operators.
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation, DHS submitted the Supplemental for the Port Security Grant Program (PSGP). Supplemental PSGP money is designed to facilitate the development of a Port-Wide Risk Management/Mitigation and Business Continuity/Resumption of Trade Plan. The funding supports the development of a plan that emphasizes port-wide partnerships, regional management of risk, and business continuity/resumption of trade. The central plan focuses on security across the port area and articulates a strategy for ensuring business continuity and resumption of trade within the port in the event of an emergency.
Department of Transportation 2. To help ensure that ports have adequate understanding of maritime disaster recovery resources, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation should direct the administrator of the Maritime Administration to develop a communication strategy to inform ports of the maritime resources available for recovery efforts.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Transportation agrees with our recommendation and the Maritime Administration has implemented several major initiatives intended to enhance its capabilities to address emergency preparedness and response.

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