Security is made tighter at port
Even state officials must show photo ID; Coast Guard orders change
The new rule, posted on the state agency's Web site this week, calls for security workers staffing port gates to check the photo ID of all people entering the terminal, even if they are in a vehicle with an MPA-issued decal.
The rule, which will take effect June 13, allows no exceptions, according to the memo by Melvin Jackson, the MPA's general manager for security.
The memo says the change is required under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, passed by Congress after the September 2001 terrorist attacks.
Sources familiar with the port's security procedures say the practice at the gates has been to wave through high-ranking MPA officials and delivery truck drivers for FedEx, UPS and other companies.
J. B. Hanson, a spokesman for the port administration, said he could not confirm that delivery truck drivers were not required to show identification. He acknowledged, however, that security guards have routinely waved through certain port officials they recognized.
That practice will end under the new policy. Hanson said the rules change will apply even to Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan and port administrator F. Brooks Royster III.
In addition to state officials, the new rules could slow entry to the marine terminals for longshoremen, sailors, vendors, construction workers and others as security people check the IDs of each passenger in each vehicle entering the port.
Hanson said the more restrictive procedures were the result of a decision by the Coast Guard's captain of the port, Curt Springer, adding that he knew of no specific incident that prompted the change.
Lt. Andrew Ely, a spokesman for the Coast Guard's Baltimore sector, said the change is part of "a continuous improvement in security procedures to identify who is coming onto the facilities and that they have a purpose" to be there.
Ely portrayed the move as a mutual decision by the Coast Guard and the port administration.
"This is something that's kind of done as a collaborative effort," he said. "We're helping out our commercial partners here."
While the Coast Guard and the port administration are careful to portray their relations as cordial, they sometimes have divergent missions.
The Coast Guard is the lead agency on matters of security in the port, while the MPA must answer to customers that want to get in and out of the terminals quickly.
Hanson said the MPA will comply willingly with the Coast Guard's requirements. "Their recommendations will be followed to the letter of the law," he said.
If lines at the gates to the terminals back up, they could affect traffic on the streets that serve the port.
Kathy Chopper, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Transportation Department, said her agency will meet with port officials to discuss possible traffic impact. She said Broening Highway, which leads to the Seagirt and Dundalk marine terminals, is of particular concern because it is a heavily traveled route.
"We'll work with them and see exactly what will need to be done right now," she said.
Hanson said he doubts the ID checks will slow traffic much. "The process doesn't take more than two seconds," he said.
The new rules set specific terms for what types of ID are acceptable. They require a laminated or otherwise tamper-proof photo ID with the name of the person and the issuing authority.
One rule requires a photo that "accurately depicts that individual's current facial appearance."
The move is one in a series of steps that have been taken to improve the security of the port in the past four years.
The rules will apply to all of the MPA's facilities in the port of Baltimore, including the Dundalk, Seagirt, North Locust Point, South Locust Point and Fairfield peninsula marine terminals.