DULUTH (AP) -- Duluth port officials aren't expecting a new port security law signed by President Bush to affect their jobs too much.
Under the law, Duluth will join the nation's 360 other commercial ports in conducting extensive studies of their vulnerability to terrorist attacks.
The law calls on the Coast Guard to work with local authorities to develop anti-terrorism plans for seaports. It also requires ports to check the backgrounds of workers and sailors, expands the Coast Guard's post-Sept. 11 program for inspecting suspicious vessels at sea and requires improved screening of the six million cargo containers that come into the country each year.
But Duluth's seaport doesn't handle many of those cargo containers.
"We'd be an extremely low level in terms of perceived risk and vulnerability," said Davis Helberg, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. "The nature of the trade here is just not conducive to terrorism."
Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., said that while Duluth might not be a high area of concern, all ports will be required to upgrade security.
"In the new terrorism era, any port that does not have improved security provisions is going to be a vulnerability," said Oberstar, whose Eighth Congressional District includes Duluth.
The port primarily handles bulk cargoes of iron ore, coal or grain, Helberg said. More than 90 percent of the port's commerce is exported; only 200 to 250 of the roughly 1,100 ships arriving each year are from overseas.
Foreign ships headed to Duluth must first stop in Montreal, where they are inspected by U.S. and Canadian officials before entering the Great Lakes. U.S. customs and immigration agents inspect them again when they reach Duluth.
"It's quite unlikely that a person with evil intent would target a place like Duluth, just because of all the potential trip-ups before that ship ever arrived here," Helberg said.
Oberstar, one of the law's primary architects, was disappointed that the bill doesn't provide funding for the upgrades. Republicans balked at a proposal to impose fees on cargo and passengers to pay for the security changes. The compromise measure left it up to Bush or the next Congress to finance the programs.
Because the bill doesn't supply money or set deadlines for the security ramp-ups, ports will continue to "live on borrowed time," said Steven Flynn, a former Coast Guard commander.
If an attack did occur through use of a seaport, he said, it could halt all port commerce and have large ripple effects throughout the economy.
"Even Duluth, which is at the end of the road, is connected to this global economy," he said. "If something happens somewhere else in the system ... it casts the spotlight immediately on the whole maritime industry."
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