DeLauro investigates enhancing port security



While private terminal owners and government agencies have taken significant steps to increase security at New Haven’s port, additional measures and more funding are required, business and government representatives said Monday.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro met with representatives of the city of New Haven, the Connecticut Division of Homeland Security, the U.S. Coast Guard, and local terminal operators at the New Haven Terminal to discuss enhancing security, receiving funding and coordinating their efforts.

“Our greatest responsibility is keeping people safe from harm,” DeLauro said. “I think we need to ensure that our containers are free of any weapons.”

At the meeting, DeLauro passed out a survey form — requesting information about port size, vulnerability assessments, security costs, grants received and container inspection equipment — and asked those attending to fill it out and return it by the end of the month. She said her colleagues in the House of Representatives were passing out the same form to their constituents to help develop a complete picture of the country’s port security needs as they seek increased funding.

“We’re trying to gather the information so we can make our best case,” DeLauro said.

DeLauro said no funds for national port security had originally been included in the 2004 budget, but Congress has since added $125 million. Referring to the Bush administration’s recent request for $87 billion for reconstruction in Iraq, DeLauro said she thought homeland security was “equally important.”

While participants in the meeting agreed on a general need for greater cooperation and funding, each had individual concerns ranging from everyday security features to response mechanisms.

W. Darrald Atwood, the director of health and safety for terminal operator Logistec USA Inc., said some sort of control over vehicular and pedestrian access is needed. Atwood pointed out that other ports his company operates have one main gate controlled by the port authority, unlike the New Haven port, in which individual operators control access themselves.

Since the federal government has not yet issued specifications for identification cards, providing credentials to all employees who work at the port is a serious concern, said Orest Dubno of Gateway Terminal. Dubno said employers did not want to spend the $15,000 to $20,000 it will cost to create the cards only to find out later that they are missing a required element. U.S. Coast Guard representatives said the Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security had created a pilot program for the ID cards but they had not yet issued guidelines.

New Haven Fire Chief Michael Grant said his department needs an “all hazards emergency response vessel” to fight fires in the port, provide pollution control and act as an offshore command post in an emergency, among other uses. Currently, Grant said, it is doubtful his department could control a fire on a ship or in a port facility, and existing fire suppression systems are not designed to combat deliberately set blazes.

Maggie Targove, public safety planner for the city of New Haven, said the city had received funding for surveillance equipment in the past and had applied for money to buy a police patrol boat and a bomb-diffusing robot.

“It’s an awfully small amount [of federal funding] in 2004, and there’s a lot that still needs to be done in the port area,” Targove said.

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