Ridge: Private Sector Must Help Fund Security

The federal government cannot afford to pay for the increased security needed to protect U.S. ports from terrorists, Homeland Security (searchSecretary Tom Ridge (searchsaid Monday.

"We need to talk to the private sector," Ridge said. "We don't have enough public money to do everything that needs to be done."

Ports and shipping companies are facing a July 1 deadline to have security programs in place for their docks and vessels or face potential fines. The programs are based on regulations developed by the Homeland Security Department and the Coast Guard under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (search).

The federal government plans to spend nearly $3 billion on security programs this year but Ridge said "we can't go around using public money for every private sector need."

He noted the 360 ports protected by the Coast Guard do about $1 trillion in business every year.

Sam Ruda, who heads the maritime division for the Port of Portland, said user fees likely will be needed to help pay the cost of increased security.

"I'm not really expecting that the federal government is going to bear the burden," Ruda said.

The Port of Portland is the major railroad freight center for most of the West and is the nation's top export center for wheat shipped from as far as the Midwest.