The American Association of Port Authorities, based inAlexandria, VA, and the Port of Houston Authority are jointlyhosting the 12th Port Security Seminar and Exhibition. Theconference, which began yesterday and will conclude Friday, isbeing held at the Hilton Americas-Houston at 1600 Lamar St.

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Jean Godwin, executive vice president for the AmericanAssociation of Port Authorities, says attendance this year has farsurpassed that of previous conferences. She credits the increasednumber of attendees and exhibitors to the $400 million of portsecurity grants earmarked to pay for technology against terrorism."In the past, there hasn't been as much federal money available fortechnological innovations," she says. "Now ports can apply forgrants to buy some of the equipment that will be exhibited at thisyear's conference."

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Godwin tells GlobeSt.com that a major issue among ports isTransportation Worker Identification Cards, or TWICs, which arebiometric identification cards for port workers who work in secureareas of the port. The TWICs were mandated by Congress' 2006 SafePort Act.

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The challenge for ports will be installing the biometricequipment needed to read the cards. "Ports are issuing the cards,but haven't acquired the readers yet to read them," Godwinexplains. "What they're finding in the pilot programs is that thereader card technology will have to be a lot sturdier than similarreaders in internal facilities. They need to function in all mannerof outdoor environment."

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Conference sessions are covering topics like port securitysurveys, cruise terminal security as well as security at specialevents, counter-terrorism strategies, cargo theft deterrence andrailroad security. Featured speakers include Chuck Gallaway, deputydirector of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office of the USDepartment of Homeland Security, and Todd Owen, executive directorwith US Customs and Border Protection's Cargo and ConveyanceSecurity.

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Godwin says the conferences have been held every year sinceSept. 11, 2001 in various locations in the US, Canada andCaribbean. She adds that Houston was a logical choice for thisyear's event because the local port authority is a leader insecurity. "The nice thing about moving the program around is theability to highlight local security. Houston's doing an excellentjob in that area," Godwin says.

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