Safe Harbor?

A second round of federal grants and new rules and regulations are shoring

October, 2003

Following Sept. 11, the dust literally hadn’t settled over New York City and Washington, D.C., before security experts were warning that the seaports were more vulnerable and more important to the nation’s economy than its airports. The numbers were staggering. A major attack on one of the nation’s seaports could result in losses of up to $58 billion and a stock market drop of more than 500 points. By contrast, last year’s West Coast dock labor dispute cost the U.S. economy an estimated $10 billion to $20 billion.

“It’s not that our harbor was considered unsafe,” says Maj. Gen. Bob Lee, head of the state Department of Defense and adjutant general of the state of Hawaii. “I can say that security was adequate before Sept. 11, but the standards have changed, and in that light, every harbor and coastline in the country looks weak. Is Honolulu Harbor as secure as the airport, or the rest of the city, for that matter? No, it’s not, but it’s getting a lot better in a hurry.”

Is Honolulu Harbor safe? Yes and no. It depends on who you ask and when you ask them. On the one hand, the harbor is more secure than most ports of call around the country, because of its moderate traffic and narrow main waterway, which is relatively easy to monitor. But, on the other hand, it is more vulnerable because its waterfront is dotted with a plethora of large and small businesses. Also, unlike most cities around the nation and the world, Honolulu’s harbor sits very close to the heart of the city, with a major thoroughfare (Nimitz Highway) skirting its edge. But, while Hawaii is located closer to terrorist hot spots in Southeast Asia than the Mainland, only about 10,000 of the 150,000 cargo containers coming through Honolulu Harbor annually are from foreign ports.

In the homeland security business, in which one tiny oversight can lead to disaster, there are a lot of yes and no answers.

“We are pretty porous here in Honolulu. We have a lot of vulnerabilities that other locations don’t have,” says Gary Moniz, head of port operations at Matson Navigation and of the State Law Enforcement Coalition, a task force of state officials who monitor security issues at Hawaii’s ports. “However, we have a few strengths, too. For instance, I can’t think of any other port in the country that has a U.S. Coast Guard base stationed right in the middle of it.”

According to Moniz, Lee and other homeland security officials in the state, Honolulu Harbor and its surrounding areas will be getting a lot safer over the next several months. In June, Hawaii companies and state agencies received the second round of port security grant funds, $7 million in all, from the Transportation Security Administration. The grant money was part of $105 million distributed across the nation to enhance cargo and passenger security and access control. Hawaii ranked seventh among the states and territories that received port security grants. California topped the list at $28.51 million.

Matson Navigation Co., one of four companies receiving grant money, got $805,000. According to Moniz, the funds, which were matched by approximately $240,000 of Matson money, will be used for improving the fencing around the perimeter of his Sand Island facility, as well as the installation of various types of electronic intrusion detection devices, improved access control for personnel entering the terminal, hardware to monitor the trucks and drivers coming in and out of the facility and a new barricade system.

Tesoro Hawaii Corp. received the largest grant of $2.85 million. Like Matson, much of Tesoro’s funds will be used to strengthen the perimeter of the company’s Campbell Industrial Park facilities. According to Tesoro spokesperson Jeanette Metzger, some of the measures include the installation of pan and tilt video cameras and motion detectors to monitor the facility’s perimeter areas, as well as improved lighting and new fencing around areas housing electrical equipment.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) received $1.5 million in federal funds. Plans for the money haven’t been finalized, but DLNR officials say it will most likely be used for overtime pay for security personnel at Kailua-Kona and Lahaina harbors.

Other grant recipients were the state Department of Transportation, $645,000; the Gas Co., $630,561; and Chevron Products Co., Hawaii Refinery, $625,000.

“It’s a good start,” says Lee of the grant program, which will have a third phase in 2004. “It’s a good news bad news kind of thing. Yes, we didn’t get as much money as Seattle, Oakland and Long Beach. But the good news is that we don’t need as much money as those ports. Not only are the funds distributed according to size of facility but also by the location’s threat level. Honolulu isn’t at the same level as those ports.”

On July 1, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began implementing the interim rules and regulations of the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA), a comprehensive port security legislation. MTSA’s rules and regulations include passenger, vehicle and baggage screening procedures; security patrols; establishing restricted areas; personnel identification procedures; access control measures; and/or installation of surveillance equipment. It is the first time the federal government has imposed security requirements on U.S. ports since World War II. The final rules go into effect later this month.

“It’s landmark legislation in many respects,” says Lt. Commander Todd Offutt, chief investigations and command public affairs, U.S. Coast Guard. “The regs are designed to be seamless, with the minor exception of getting padded down or screened when you board a cruise ship. For the public’s point of view, these new procedures will be no less onerous than what they might see at the airport.”

Top 10 Port Security Grant Recipients, Phase Two
Dante B. Fascell Port of Miami Dade $17.58 million
Citgo Petroleum Corp. $13.46 million
Harbor Department of the City of Long Beach $9.82 million
New York City Department of Transportation $7.04 million
Washington State Ferries $6.89 million
Port of Seattle $5.91 million
North Carolina State Port Authority $4.87 million
Port of Corpus Christi Authority $4.17 million
Tampa Port Authority $4 million
Port of San Francisco $3.37 million
Hawaii port security grant Recipients, phase two
Tesoro Hawaii Corp. $2.85 million
State Department of Land and Natural Resources $1.5 million
Matson Navigation Co. $805,000
The Gas Co. $603,561
Chevron Products Co., Hawaii Refinery $625,000

“Before Sept. 11, there were no requirements to do the number of checks that we are doing now, containers, cargo, keeping small boats away from our cruise liners,” says Lee. “We didn’t think of these things until the bombing of the USS Cole [the American destroyer attacked by terrorists in Yemen in 2001] and then the terrorists struck New York.”

According to Moniz and Metzger, life under MTSA hasn’t adversely affected business. Infrastructure improvements have largely been away from work areas. Moniz says that security at his facility has been significantly increased over the past couple of years. He recently applied for funds in the federal government’s third round of port security grants, but he says that the most important enhancements to security around the harbor can’t be measured in dollars and cents.

“We’ve been able to increase awareness throughout our company, including our longshoremen,” says Moniz. “They’ve become sensitive to suspicious activity, and they report unusual circumstances. No amount of high-tech detection equipment is going to be able to do that.”

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