California Ports Meet New Security Deadline
Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, others comply with strict new rules
LOS ANGELES - 07/02/04 - California's deep-water ports, including the major load-centers of Los Angeles/Long Beach and Oakland, are reporting full compliance with the new stringent domestic and international port security regulations that went into effect yesterday, according to the US Coast Guard (USCG).
The international guidelines now require ocean carriers operating ships flagged outside the US to tighten security safeguards, allow boarding of their ships by US security personnel, and supply documentation including crew and passenger lists to the USCG at least 96 hours in advance of the ship's arrival.
"We have to know the cargo that's onboard the vessel, we have to know the identification and nationality and origin of the crew members on board the vessel, and they have to be able to prove this to us at the time we board the vessel," according to a USCG spokesman quoted by the Associated Press.
Vessels that aren't certified run the risk of being refused entry to US ports.
On the first day of mandatory compliance nationwide, six foreign-flagged ships of the 265 arriving in the US were denied entry for failing to have valid new security certificates.
Only one was identified by name - the Bolivia-flagged freighter Dahomey Express, which was denied entry to the Port of Miami. The ship was sailing "in ballast" - without cargo - and was in-bound from an unnamed port.
There was no immediate information on the other five vessels.
Officials at Hong Kong-based Orient Overseas Container Lines, which has shipping operations all along the West Coast, and several other carriers that were contacted reported no significant delays from the inspections.
A spokesman for the San Francisco-headquartered Pacific Maritime Association, which represents virtually all of the ocean carriers operating at California's ports, also reported no delays due to the inspections.
Yesterday was also deadline for ports and terminals to submit detailed domestic security plans under the Maritime Transportation Security Act, passed by Congress in 2002.
Both the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and their combined 29 terminal facilities reportedly submitted plans on time, as had the Port of Oakland.
Those documents detail physical impediments to terrorists including fencing, lighting and security cameras as well as training, exercise and evacuation procedures.
According to the Associated Press, among the Coast Guard's new capabilities is intelligence coordination which gives the USCG the capability of checking every visiting foreign ship crewmember's background against multiple national security databases.
The service now mans an intelligence coordination center at the Office of Navy Intelligence, as well as a high-tech facility that tracks all oceangoing vessels entering and leaving?US ports.
The Coast Guard has trained and deployed eight 100-person special operations teams to combat terrorists since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Armed sea marshals now travel on oceangoing ships. Eleven Navy patrol boats have been placed under Coast Guard command to protect US ports and, for the first time ever, Coast Guard helicopters are now allowed to fire weapons inside the US, if necessary.
In addition, US Customs and Border Protection has placed inspectors at 19 of the world's busiest 20 ports to monitor cargo before it ever leaves foreign ports for the US.
But, on the eve of the July 1 deadline, only about half of the world's ports and 53% of non-US-flagged ships were in compliance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security code, according to the UN's International Maritime Organization, reported Reuters.
In Asia, where most major shipping lines and key container ports had met yesterday's deadline, there were no initial reports of delays. At the world's largest transshipment hub in Singapore, all 41 ships that visited the port by the deadline were compliant.
Traffic at Taiwan's two main international ports of Kaohsiung - the world's sixth-largest container port - and Keelung moved swiftly throughout the day, with no vessels requiring searches, harbor officials said.
Australia, where all ships and ports involved in international trade met the deadline, reported no ships were delayed.?
In Europe, where most mega-ports were in full compliance, there were also no reports of early snags with Rotterdam, Antwerp, Le Havre, Marseilles, and Livorno reporting no disruptions or major incidents involving non-compliant ships.
Germany's Transport Ministry said uncertified vessels were still being allowed to dock in Hamburg, Bremen, and Bremerhaven, although ships from a high-risk region that had made no attempt to comply might be stopped.
The Paris MOU, which oversees maritime safety and security in 13 European Union countries, as well as Russia and Canada, reported "business as usual," the news service said.
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