HOUSTON, Jan. 31, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- At a briefing held Wednesday at the Port of Houston Authority, U.S. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Congressman Michael McCaul praised joint security efforts at the Port of Houston as "the greatest example of public-private collaboration in the nation."
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McCaul chose the port as the site to host the briefing on security and emergency preparedness to illustrate the importance of the Port of Houston to the nation's economy and energy security. The Port of Houston is home to the largest petrochemical manufacturing complex in the United States and second largest in the world.
McCaul met with Port of Houston Authority officials as well as Houston, Harris County and federal law enforcement and industry stakeholders to discuss security operations at the port and the surrounding industrial complex. He noted that his first official act as chairman was to visit the Port of Houston and that today's event attracted the "largest congressional delegation to visit the port."
Port Commissioners Steve Phelps and John D. Kennedy attended the briefing as did the following elected officials: Congressman Gene Green; Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee; Congressman Al Green; Congressman Pete Olson; Congressman Blake Farenthold; Congressman Steve Stockman; Congressman Randy Weber; and Harris County Commissioner Jack Morman. In addition, the port's federal and security partners as well as industry partners participated.
In a press conference after the briefing, Congressman McCaul discussed port security, as well as recent developments in the Middle East related to national security.
"The collaboration between the public and private sector and law enforcement at all levels is one of the most impressive in the nation," he said, noting the threat of terrorism puts the port at risk.
"We had a very good conversation about the measures being taken to avoid that risk. The expansion of the Panama Canal will bring great opportunity with increased exports of liquid natural gas from what is already the energy capital of the United States and a national leader in the movement of cargo."
With the opening of the expanded Panama Canal and the larger ships it will provide, McCaul noted that dredging is an issue "because without dredging these ships cannot enter the ship canal," he said. "So we are proposing legislation, a Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund bill that will ensure that more of the dollars that we send to Washington come back to the ports.
"To continue to ensure the free flow of trade and commerce, we must better protect our ports," McCaul said. Indicating that he was committed to restoring funding that had been cut for security grants in recent years, McCaul added: "We want to see Houston's share increase."
Also participating in the press conference were Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and PHA Executive Director Leonard "Len" Waterworth.
"The Port of Houston is the gateway to North America," said Emmett, "And it is absolutely critical to our future to look at these security issues."
"We appreciate the support of Chairman McCaul and our congressional delegation," said Waterworth. "They all have been champions for securing more dredging dollars for us and for securing our port."
Various port security partners, including the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs & Border Protection, Harris Co. Sheriff's Department and Houston Police Department, displayed aviation and marine patrol assets at the press conference that are used to protect the Port of Houston. The Port Authority's Mobile Command Center was also on display.
The Port of Houston exports more than any other U.S. port. More than 8,000 vessel calls are made at the port annually.
About the Port of Houston Authority
For nearly 100 years, the Port of Houston Authority has owned or operated the public cargo-handling facilities of the Port of Houston – the nation's largest port for foreign waterborne tonnage. The port is an economic engine for the Houston region, the state of Texas and the nation. It supports the creation of more than one million statewide jobs and more than 2.1 million nationwide jobs, and the generation of economic activity totaling more than $178.5 billion in Texas and $499 billion across the nation. For more information, visit the Port Authority website at: www.portofhouston.com
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Source:Port of Houston Authority