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New-Kathy-Bergren-Smith-Blog A security upgrade at Baltimore


January 17, 2013

The Port of Baltimore’s Dundalk and Seagirt Marine Terminals are busy places. On most days, 3,000 individuals pass through the terminal gates.

I spend a lot of time complaining about security structures that have added layers upon layers of complexity to simply getting people on and off the terminals. There are badges, stickers, escorts, guards, cameras, you name it. These things supposedly keep us, and cargo, safe.

For a change, the port has devoted resources to expediting the security process and I hope other U.S. ports will take note.

Baltimore was awarded a grant to upgrade its access facility, which had been nonexistent. A visitor would have to negotiate with the security guards to find their name on a visitor list while longshoremen waited impatiently in line trying to get to work. There was always a guy in a Pepsi truck holding up the works. If your vehicle access sticker was expiring, you had to get a pass from the guard to get it renewed from the police at the terminal. It was, as Dave Espie, the head of port security at the Port of Baltimore, said in an understatement, “not an ideal situation.”

So the new Access Control Center, located just outside the terminal gate, is a marked improvement. It is like a visitor center — a “one stop shop” for badges, visitors and escorts. There is a large parking lot so people can leave a vehicle safely and park for free if they are riding onto the terminal with an escort. There are customer service  people behind neat little windows who are friendly and don’t treat visitors like criminals. There is a quick turnaround for ID badges and vehicle stickers.

After the whole TWIC renewal debacle I went through a few weeks ago, I was very pleasantly surprised by the Baltimore security upgrade.

I know there is no putting this security horse back in the barn. Too many businesses, and the government, have too much money at stake. But the days of large Homeland Security grants for port security are over.

I am glad the Port of Baltimore has created a smoother process for accessing their terminals with their own funds rather than buying another sexy patrol boat. Because when the homeland security money is gone, at least we will be able to get to work.

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