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Security is made tighter at port

Sun Staff

Under orders from the Coast Guard, the Maryland Port Administration istightening its procedures for allowing access to its Baltimore marineterminals - barring even high state officials from entering without anidentity check.

The new rule, posted on the state agency's Web site this week, calls forsecurity workers staffing port gates to check the photo ID of all peopleentering 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, accordingto the memo by Melvin Jackson, the MPA's general manager for security.

The memo says the change is required under the Maritime TransportationSecurity Act of 2002, passed by Congress after the September 2001 terroristattacks.

Sources familiar with the port's security procedures say the practice atthe gates has been to wave through high-ranking MPA officials and deliverytruck drivers for FedEx, UPS and other companies.

J. B. Hanson, a spokesman for the port administration, said he could notconfirm that delivery truck drivers were not required to show identification.He acknowledged, however, that security guards have routinely waved throughcertain port officials they recognized.

That practice will end under the new policy. Hanson said the rules changewill apply even to Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan and portadministrator F. Brooks Royster III.

In addition to state officials, the new rules could slow entry to themarine terminals for longshoremen, sailors, vendors, construction workers andothers as security people check the IDs of each passenger in each vehicleentering the port.

Hanson said the more restrictive procedures were the result of a decisionby the Coast Guard's captain of the port, Curt Springer, adding that he knewof no specific incident that prompted the change.

Lt. Andrew Ely, a spokesman for the Coast Guard's Baltimore sector, saidthe change is part of "a continuous improvement in security procedures toidentify who is coming onto the facilities and that they have a purpose" to bethere.

Ely portrayed the move as a mutual decision by the Coast Guard and the portadministration.

"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 portraytheir 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 theterminals quickly.

Hanson said the MPA will comply willingly with the Coast Guard'srequirements. "Their recommendations will be followed to the letter of thelaw," he said.

If lines at the gates to the terminals back up, they could affect trafficon 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 trafficimpact. She said Broening Highway, which leads to the Seagirt and Dundalkmarine terminals, is of particular concern because it is a heavily traveledroute.

"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 processdoesn't take more than two seconds," he said.

The new rules set specific terms for what types of ID are acceptable. Theyrequire a laminated or otherwise tamper-proof photo ID with the name of theperson and the issuing authority.

One rule requires a photo that "accurately depicts that individual'scurrent facial appearance."

The move is one in a series of steps that have been taken to improve thesecurity of the port in the past four years.

The rules will apply to all of the MPA's facilities in the port ofBaltimore, including the Dundalk, Seagirt, North Locust Point, South LocustPoint and Fairfield peninsula marine terminals.

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