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Portland Port Tightens Security in the Harbor

by Kat Ricker, Capital Press - October 12, 2001

Last week, Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., warned those who oversee the nation's railways and ports not to pile on security measures at the expense of discouraging travel,and officials at the Portland harbor say that's their goal.

Local government officials are striving to preserve efficiency in the face of heightened security. In response to the events of Sept. 11, they're stepping up inspections and urging private companies to tighten security at the port, where large amounts of grain and various other goods change international hands.

There are 43 marine terminals at the port. Most are leased and run privately, providing most of their own security. Additional harbor security is provided by government agencies.

Port of Portland runs one of the five terminals it owns. Aaron Ellis, maritime public affairs manager, said the port is following the lead of federal agencies by conducting more random checks of containers for import and export, as well as adding measures they will not reveal to the public.

"We want to play it safe, ensure security and peace of mind for those working on terminals and cargo passing through them, but also want to make sure it's moving efficiency so we don't cause harm to the economy needlessly," he said.

Terminal 6, the only ocean-container deepwater facility on the Columbia-Willamette River system, is run by Port of Portland.

"We have had a good plan in place for Terminal 6 all along," Ellis said. "We have been pretty vigilant to maintain the safety and security of people and cargo passing through their terminals, and also maintain efficiency in cargo movement. You have to strike a balance. We believe we are. We're seeing very little in the way of delays."

Cargill Inc. is the harbor's largest grain terminal. Supervisor Gene Lauffler said that the company has made some security changes, but declined to comment further.

David Feider, out of Cargills' headquarters in Minneapolis, said, "We are working with local port authorities and trade associations of these security issues."

Federal Issues

U.S. Coast Guard Capt. James D. Spitzer is captain of the harbeor. Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he was directed to assert control over the movement, mooring and anchorage of vessels. He issued a statment to port entities saying he intended to do so in cooperation with the maritime industry and give special securtiy consideration to high-risk waterfront facilities and vessels.

"Please join me in not letting fear dictate rash actions and inordinately cripple our commerce and daily activities," he said in his statement. "I now have no reason to believe that the Columbia River region is at risk; however, it is prudent that we all recognize the need to heighten security measures and reminding the industry that good security makes good business sense at any time.

The Coast Guard works closely with the Immigration and Naturalization Service and Customs, as well as Oregon and Washington state governments, for port security, said public information officer Lt. Sean Regan.

"When you add them all together, it gives you a sense of a continous presence of government officials on the vessels," Regan said.

The Coast Guard screens all vessels that come through U.S. ports.

"We look for things like the status of documentation, age of the vessel and names of the crew, to determine whether the Coast guard needs to board the vessel and conduct investigations."

Prior to Sept. 11 the Coast Guard inspected one in every four commercial vessels that came into the port, he said. If anything, that number has increased, though he could not cite specific numbers.

The Coast Guard is doing checks around the port and ensuring that ships have a monitor at the gangway of each vessel at all times, he said.

by Kat Ricker Capital Press Staff Writer
Portland Port Tightens Security in the Harbor
Capital Press - October 12, 2001

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