Ridge: Seaport Security Will Make Deadline

The nation's seaports are ready to meet the July 1 deadline for international maritime security standards, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge (search) said Monday.

Under the new guidelines, outlined in the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (search), officials would be allowed to verify the security of ships before they enter port and deny access to vessels that are not in compliance, Ridge said.

"For the first time ever, through an international effort, there will be one world standard for ship and port security," Ridge said Monday.

New domestic security programs, outlined under the Maritime Transportation Securities Act (search) of 2002, have additional requirements for ports and shipping companies across the country, also with a July 1 deadline.

Those programs may include more identification checks, additional screenings, more canine teams, higher fences, additional surveillance cameras, and expanded training for security personnel. On Monday, officials in Washington state announced changes to the ferry system there as part of the domestic security rules, including random searches of vehicles boarding the vessels and additional explosives-sniffing dogs.

International and domestic regulations were written so they could dovetail with each other, said Lt. Commander Hector Avella, director of security and compliance for the U.S. Coast Guard in Los Angeles and Long Beach, the two ports Ridge toured Monday. He said domestic compliance efforts were nearly complete.

Ridge called past international security efforts often "isolated" and "uncoordinated."

"Shipping is a global industry. Terrorism is a global problem," he said. "Our collective security requires a global solution."

In Washington state, random searches of vehicles boarding ferries were discontinued in 2002 following opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.

Doug Honig, an ACLU spokesman, said he had not yet seen the security plan for the ferry system, which is the nation's largest.

"The ACLU certainly has concerns any time the government talks about conducting random searches of citizens without reason to think that an individual has done anything wrong," he said.

State ferries also will no longer accept freight that is not escorted by a passenger, including blood, medical equipment, architectural drawings, luggage and prescriptions.

Coast Guard officials also recently announced plans to make on-board inspections of cruise ships docking in Juneau, Alaska, as part of the regulations.