BC Ferries to increase security as per Transport Canada requirements
Tue, 2007-04-03 23:35
NANAIMO, B.C. (CP) - B.C. Ferries will beef up security in accordance with Transport Canada requirements across the country but stop short of airport-style measures that would slow down travel, says the company president.
"What's going to happen is there'll be continual upgrades to the security system," David Hahn said Tuesday, adding all ferry systems in Canada will be affected by guidelines to be released in the fall. "If it's appropriate we will move to more aggressive things like screening but I don't think there's any master plan to screen every passenger," Hahn said.
He said there may be random security checks of some people, "not any kind of profiling."
Hahn was refuting comments made earlier Tuesday by Manuel Achadinha, vice-president of terminal operations for the fleet.
"There will be times, for example, if security incidents increase, it'll be like the airports," Achadinha said. "It might take you an hour to get through."
Hahn said B.C. Ferries will continue to operate with the least amount of intrusion possible.
The company has slowly increased security by adding more cameras, providing employees with identification badges, installing more fencing around terminals and restricting access on some areas of the fleet.
Hahn said the new security measures have nothing to do with the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver but are likely in response to the 9-11 terrorism attacks in the United States, the train bombing in Madrid in 2004 and London's subway bombing the following year.
"I don't think people should be overly concerned that there's going to be this massive slowdown in transit times," he said.
"The only time it would get difficult to travel is when it should be difficult to travel, which is if there's some kind of extraordinary event and people would expect that."
In July 2005, shortly after the terrorist attacks on London's transportation system, Hahn said the company would review how it handles baggage on its ships.
He said at the time there was too much unattended baggage and that would have to change.
He also acknowledged the increased security might put a burden on the disabled and elderly, but the company had no choice.
The company was also reviewing how buses would be screened.
An official at the B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers' Union in Nanaimo said the union is aware of the security measures being considered and generally supports the initiative.
"They are keeping us in the loop and that's where we like to be. We're all on the same side on this issue," said the union official, who did not want to be identified.
Canadian security expert Michel Juneau-Katsuya said screening ferry passengers and vehicles can be done but it presents complications.
"People have mixed feelings about it because of the sheer technicality of having to deal with volume," he said from Ottawa.
Potentially explosive materials such as gasoline and industrial chemicals that airport sniffer machines detect can be carried on ferries legitimately, said Juneau-Katsuya, a former officer with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
Another option is screening vehicle licence plates to flag any that are on police watch lists, but Ferries would require the legal authority to tap into police databases, which might raise the hackles of civil rights advocates, he said.
Likewise, attempts to profile passengers as potential terrorists would raise human rights hackles.
In Europe, ferry screening is done by police or official security personnel, Juneau-Katsuya said.
Terror groups are also less likely to target ferries than, say, Vancouver's SkyTrain rapid transit system, he said.
A December 2006 report on maritime terrorism by the Rand Corp., a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said ferries are particularly vulnerable to attack because of the speed needed to board passengers, cargo and vehicles that could conceal explosives.
And unlike cruise ships or cargo vessels, whose hull designs make them hard to sink, ferries sit low in the water and have open car decks.
"Attacks on ferries are easy to execute, have the potential to kill many people, are likely to capture significant media attention and can be exploited to visibly demonstrate a terrorists group's salience," the report said.
The report noted that in February 2004, an attack on a ferry in the Philippines that killed 116 people and wounded more than 300 used about $300 in explosives.
So we can equate Canada with the Philipines now ? Wonderful!
If they are so vulnerable, why 'tip off' the terrorists? Aren't you just creating a risk and ensuring that your (or your friend's) services are needed? And who will pay? Ahh yes, we the users and taxpayers.
Sounds like a protection racket to me.
I think this needs to be challenged.