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Why search our ports?

Why search our ports?


by Brenton Cain

Coastguard Commander

St Vincent and the Grenadines, like most other Caribbean countries, is a member of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The IMO adopted the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) in December 2002. This move by the IMO was triggered by the tragic events of September, 11, 2001.

The ISPS Code was one of the resolutions that was adopted on December 12, 2002 by the conference of contracting Governments to the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea. The code then became mandatory on July 1, 2004.{{more}} The aim of the code is to enhance Maritime Security; these new requirements form the International framework through which ships and port facilities can co-operate to detect and deter acts which threaten security in the transport sector.

Some of the objectives of the code are to establish the respective role and responsibilities of Governmental agencies, local administrations and the shipping and port industries at the local and international level for ensuring maritime security and to prevent the introduction of unauthorized materials to ships and port facilities.

One of the functional requirements of the code is for the ports and ships to have a security plan. The code also requires that the Government appoints an oversight agency to monitor the security at the ports in its territory; the code refers to this agency as the Designated Authority (DA). In St Vincent and the Grenadines that agency is the St Vincent and the Grenadines Coastguard. The DA has various functions, one of which is to approve the security plans of the various ISPS compliant ports in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The DA also determines which port facilities have to be ISPS compliant; in St Vincent there are six such port facilities: Port Kingstown, Campden Park, ECGC, SOL, Rubis and Lowmans Bay oil facility.

Access control is a very important aspect of the security framework of these ports’ security plans. The port facilities have embedded in their access control regime methods to control illegal materials entering the ports. Searching of individuals, luggage and vehicles are methods of controlling what passes through the port facilities. Each port has different methodologies in their plans as regards searches.

The methodologies depend on the perceived threat level and suspicions. Some searches can be random, some systematic and others can be when the port security deems it necessary, depending on the circumstances of the prevailing situation. Searching persons passing through a port facility is not uncommon at the port facilities in St Vincent and other ISPS compliant ports throughout the Caribbean and the rest of the world.