Laura Richardson urges international legislation to protect ports, combat piracy

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Congresswoman Laura Richardson recently pushed the issues of port security and international piracy on to the agenda of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA).

Participating in her first meeting as a delegate to the international body, Richardson raised the issues based on her experience as a member of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee and representative of Long Beach, California, the world’s third largest port complex in the world.  Congresswoman Richardson became increasingly involved in this issue following the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation hearing on the rescue of the crew aboard the MV Maersk Alabama off the east coast of Somalia on April 13, 2009.

In 2009, pirates boarded 153 ships, hijacked 49 vessels, killed eight crew members and gained $60 million in ransom payments. More than half of these attacks stemmed from Somali pirates.

“Turning around the global economic crisis depends in part on increasing international trade. But the security of trade and ocean-going commerce hinges on the security of our ships, cargo containers and international ports,” Congresswoman Richardson said. “One country’s safe ports are rendered less meaningful when all countries do not step up their inspections, share information, modernize cargo screening and enact proactive security measures on ocean vessels.”

Congresswoman Richardson addressed the General Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and the Environment to promote an international consensus on cargo security issues at sea and ports. After Congresswoman Richardson’s remarks, Committee Vice-Chair Ivor Callely of Ireland said the cargo security could “probably be taken on board in the committee,” which will draft resolutions to be voted on this July at the Assembly’s Annual Session in Oslo, Norway. The resolutions help shape the activities of the OSCE and its various field missions and broader international policy.

“The UN has passed resolutions on piracy in the Horn of Africa and warships have been sent to the region, but despite these efforts, the number of hijacked ships has increased,” Congresswoman Richardson said. “To combat piracy we need to go beyond discouraging pirates on land and increase efforts to follow their financing and strengthen legal institutions, issues we have raised this week with several of our European partners.”

Congresswoman Richardson is part of a bipartisan delegation of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, led by Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD). They are joined at the Parliamentary Assembly by more than 200 parliamentarians from around the 56-country OSCE.

Congresswoman Richardson is a Democrat from California’s 37th Congressional District, which includes Long Beach, Compton, Carson, Watts, Willowbrook and Signal Hill.

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