Ferry operators review new security study

The U.S. Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration have completed a study to determine how secure ferries are from a potential terrorist attack.

Although no specific threat has been discovered against ferries in the U.S., the study was prompted by an attack on a Philippines ferry, according to Coast Guard spokesperson Jolie Shifflet.

Shifflet said that the completed study is being reviewed by several ferry operators “for their input,” but she declined to name who they were.

Media reports speculated that the Bar Harbor, Maine-to-Yarmouth, Nova Scotia ferry, The Cat, operated by Bay Ferries Ltd., Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, was a subject of the study. But Mark MacDonald, Bay Ferries president and CEO, said that wasn’t true.

Shifflet declined to release specifics but did say that the study was focused on “high-capacity ferries carrying more than 500 passengers and vehicles.” TheCat can carry up to 900 passengers and 240 cars.

The study focused on such issues as screening passengers, vehicles and baggage for explosive devices. The study also assessed screening technologies, modeled the potential consequences of an attack, examined the socioeconomic effects of various screening strategies, and sought to measure the deterrent effect of random screening.

“The threat to ferries is real and we must reduce their vulnerabilities,” said Capt. Frank Sturm, chief of the Coast Guard’s office of port, vessel and facility security. “It is vital that we have valid data to ensure that the actions we are taking to protect our ferries will have real impacts and this team will help us accomplish that goal.”

In a related development, The Cat has added extra runs out of Bar Harbor due to the cancellation of the 2005 season by Scotia Prince Cruises, operator of the ferry Scotia Prince, which had run between Portland, Maine, and Yarmouth.

Matthew Hudson, Scotia Prince Cruises chairman, said in an April letter to employees that they were forced to cancel the 2005 season “due to the lack of safe and appropriate facilities at our terminal in Portland.”

Last August, Scotia Prince Cruises discovered dangerous levels of toxic mold in the terminal facilities leased from the city of Portland. As of April 1, the city has not made the facilities safe for our employees or passengers, Hudson wrote. “Without safe facilities we cannot operate and the federal agencies cannot provide border formalities and security checks, so we have been forced to cancel the season.”

City officials announced in April that a $1 million renovation of the terminal was near completion. 

                              — B. Gustafson 

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