A Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) investigation of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ) has found that its truck driver ID system has failed to identify drivers with criminal records.

PANYNJ uses the Sea Link identification system. This allows drivers faster access to all of its marine terminals with a single card that gives terminal operators advance notice of driver arrival. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a DHS division, found that of the 9,352 active Sea Link cardholders with New Jersey licenses, nearly half had possible criminal histories, according to a report in The New York Times for today.

According to ICE, PANYNJ does not cross-reference photographs, social security and driver license numbers with criminal databases.

On Tuesday, PANYNJ issued a news release announcing new security initiatives without referencing any federal investigation. Specifically, PANYNJ vice chairman Charles A. Gargano said a public-private task force will be formed to study ways to enhance security and demonstrate security technology.

“The security of all of our facilities has and will continue to be our top priority,” said PANYNJ executive director Kenneth J. Ringler Jr. “At the seaport, we have invested approximately $70 million since 9/11 to better secure port terminals, including better fencing, lighting, closed-circuit television and access systems. During the next two years, we will invest an additional $6 million for enhanced security projects, such as more closed-circuit television cameras and a biometric access control system at the Port Authority’s Administration Building, at public berths and at other critical infrastructure.”

PANYNJ did not mention any plans to overhaul its Sea Link program in the release.

Containerized cargo volumes in the Port rose 7.6% in 2005 to a new record high, exceeding the authority’s projected cargo growth levels. The dollar value of all cargo moving through the Port exceeded $132 billion for the first time, up 15.6% from 2004. The record cargo volume was attributed to a 17% increase in trade with Far East Asia and a 15% increase in trade with Southeast Asia.