HOUSTON, Aug. 23, 2004 (PRIMEZONE) -- The Port of Houston Authority (PHA) and its security partners today celebrated the grand opening of the new Port Coordination Center (PCC), a $4.35 million state-of-the-art facility that utilizes technologically advanced communications systems and data sharing equipment to facilitate immediate, accurate communication exchange between Port Coordination Team members, including the PHA Police Department, U.S. Coast Guard, and various local, state and federal regulatory and law enforcement agencies. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by PHA Chairman Jim Edmonds, the PHA commission, PHA Executive Director H. Thomas Kornegay, U.S. Congressman Tom DeLay, U.S. Coast Guard Captain Richard M. Kaser, Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, City of Houston Chief Administrative Officer Anthony W. Hall, Jr., and more than 200 PHA staff and invited guests.

Photos accompanying this release are available at: http://media.primezone.com/poha/pages/community.html

To date, the PHA has been awarded a total of $15.20 million in federal port security grants, including $2.66 million in funds from the Transportation Security Administration/U.S. Maritime Administration ($1.5 million) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Office of Domestic Preparedness (1.16 million) that were earmarked specifically for the PCC. Federal port security grants are awarded as reimbursements to PHA for expenditures on port security-related equipment and services. The PHA provided $1.69 million in funding for the PCC.

"The Port Coordination Center is 'home away from home' for the men and women who make up the Port Coordination Team, a coalition of law enforcement agencies who protect the port and the surrounding communities," stated PHA Chairman Jim Edmonds. "This team of local, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies will converge on the Port Coordination Center to protect the port from a potential security threat or from the wrath of a hurricane."

PHA Executive Director H. Thomas Kornegay explained that keeping the world's sixth largest port secure is a job that is bigger than any one person or any single agency. "Security requires a well-integrated initiative along the Houston Ship Channel involving our many law enforcement partners," Kornegay said. "Stepping up security so that we can meet current and potential challenges continues to be a priority for the port authority. I am very proud of the house that security built. I am confident that the highly trained, professional men and women who will staff the Port Coordination Center can and will guide us through any potential emergency."

Noting that Houston is one of the largest and most important cities in the country and must be considered an area at risk to threats, Congressman Tom DeLay vowed to continue to use his power as House Majority Leader to ensure the people of Houston are protected and informed. "We take these steps because protecting our ports is crucial to our nation's economy," DeLay said.

Congressman DeLay underscored the importance of federal port security mandates such as the requirement for foreign vessels to submit crew and cargo manifests to the Coast Guard 96 hours before arrival. He also highlighted the increase in Coast Guard patrols, vessel inspections, and interdictions of illegal migrants. "These activities, along with citizen awareness, contribute to a level of national preparedness that is critical to achieving our goal of a more secure America," DeLay said.

U.S. Coast Guard Captain Richard M. Kaser proclaimed that the nation's ports have never been more ready to handle any threat than they are today. "We have added layer upon layer of security, and we are very excited about the results," Kaser said. "This facility is one key layer in the security plan, and I am quite impressed with the team members and how well everyone worked together to bring this coordination center to fruition. We are prepared for any situation, and we will adeptly implement and enact our security response plans by operating together from this Port Coordination Center."

Harris County Precinct 2 Commission Sylvia Garcia stated, "I am excited that our many local law enforcement agencies are working together to protect not only the port, but the surrounding area. By taking a cooperative and balanced approach to strengthening the international maritime system, we can go further in securing our country as well as protecting U.S. economic interests."

On behalf of Houston Mayor Bill White, City of Houston Chief Administrative Officer Anthony W. Hall, Jr. underscored the importance of protecting communities. "A safe neighborhood extends beyond subdivision boundaries. We must all work together to create a safe city so that every citizen is protected," Hall said. "I applaud the proactive security measures being established at the port because they closely align with the mayor's goals for a safe and secure Houston."

The PCC's law enforcement partners include the Area Maritime Security Committee, Baytown Police Department, Deer Park Police Department, East Harris County Manufacturers Association, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Harris County Constables, Harris County District Attorney Office, Harris County Sheriffs Department, Houston Pilots, Houston Police Department, LaPorte Police Department, Morgan's Point Police Department, Pasadena Police Department, Port of Houston Authority Police Department, Seabrook Police Department, Shoreacres Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety/Texas Rangers, Transtar, U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Marshals Service, and the U.S. Secret Service. The prime contractors for the engineering design and construction of the facility included Black and Veatch Special Projects Corp., Raytheon Company, BAE Systems Integrated Defense Solutions Inc., and State Construction, L.P.


1) Grand opening of Houston's Port Coordination Center. Pictured left (ascending): PHA Commissioner Steve Phelps, Houston City Council Member Toni Lawrence, Houston City Council Member Addie Wiseman, PHA Commissioner Jimmy Burke, PHA Commissioner Jim Fonteno, Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, U.S. Congressman Tom DeLay. Pictured right (descending): PHA Chairman Jim Edmonds, PHA Commissioner Cheryl Thompson-Draper, PHA Vice Chairman Kase Lawal, Houston Chief Administrative Officer Anthony W. Hall, Jr., PHA Executive Director Tom Kornegay, U.S. Coast Guard Captain Richard M. Kaser.

2) Unlocking Houston's key to port security. Pictured l. to r.: U.S. Congressman Tom DeLay and PHA Chairman Jim Edmonds.

 Argentina M. James, Director of Public Affairs 
 Office: (713) 670-2568     Cell: (713) 306-6822, ajames@poha.com

 Felicia Griffin, Communications Manager
 Office: (713) 670-2644     Cell: (713) 594-5620, fgriffin@poha.com

The Port of Houston Authority owns and operates the public facilities located along the Port of Houston, the 25-mile long complex of diversified public and private facilities designed for handling general cargo, containers, grain and other dry bulk materials, project and heavy lift cargo, and other types of cargo. Each year, more than 6,600 vessels call at the port, which ranks first in the U.S. in foreign waterborne tonnage, second in overall total tonnage, and sixth largest in the world. The Port Authority plays a vital role in ensuring navigational safety along the Houston Ship Channel, which has been instrumental in Houston's development as a center of international trade. The Barbours Cut Container Terminal and Central Maintenance Facility are the first of any U.S. port facilities to develop and implement an innovative Environmental Management System that meets the rigorous standards of ISO 14001. Additionally, the port is an approved delivery point for Coffee "C" futures contracts traded on the New York Board of Trade's Coffee, Sugar & Cocoa Exchange. For more information, please visit www.portofhouston.com

The Port of Houston Authority
Argentina M. James, Director of Public Affairs 
Office: (713) 670-2568 
Cell: (713) 306-6822

Felicia Griffin, Communications Manager
Office: (713) 670-2644 
Cell: (713) 594-5620