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McCaul meets in Houston on port’s security

McCaul in Houston

The new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee took a congressional delegation on Jan. 30 to the Port of Houston for a briefing by local port, government and law-enforcement officials on security measures at the facility.

Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) told local Houston newspapers the meeting was to review security measures and means to keep the facility’s 52-mile long channel in shape to handle large vessels.

In a separate statement, McCaul said the Port of Houston Authority is a critical petroleum hub, moving 25 percent of U.S. oil imports and accounting for 31 percent of America's crude oil refining capacity.

“The collaboration between the public and private sector and law enforcement at all levels is one of the most impressive in the nation,” said McCaul. “It wasn't too long ago in Abbottabad they found documents from Bin Laden indicating he wanted to target oil tankers, and that puts this port at risk.”

McCaul said the delegation had “a very good conversation” about measures aimed at mitigating the risk.

The visit came as expansion of the Panama Canal in Central America proceeds. The expansion, slated for completion in 2015, will present U.S. east and Gulf coast ports with added traffic as bigger ships move through the canal. Ports all along the east and Gulf coasts have been preparing their facilities for the expansion. The work is set to change the global flow of freight traffic, with fewer, but much larger, ships stopping at fewer ports to load and unload their cargo. Ports up and down the east coast of the U.S., with Boston, New York, Norfolk and others are setting themselves up to compete for the traffic.

 “The expansion of the Panama Canal will bring great opportunity with increased imports of liquid natural gas into what is already the energy capital of the United States and a national leader in the movement of cargo,” said McCaul.

“To continue to ensure the free flow of trade and commerce we must better protect our ports,” he said. “It's important we have the security in place, the security grants in place that have gone down over the years. We want to see Houston's share increase,” said McCaul.