Ferries add security measures

Posted: Thursday, July 01, 2004

People riding the Alaska Marine Highway System today should feel more secure, even if they don't see many differences in security, Capt. John Falvey Jr., the system's general manager said.

With a new, federally approved security plan in place, there will be some random passenger screening, and people will be required to check firearms before boarding ferries.

"Ticket holders will notice new procedures and equipment but should be able to go about their business as usual as they travel," he said.

"This is not like airport security," he added. Still, he said many upgrades will be going on behind the scenes to comply with new requirements that kick in today under the Maritime Transportation Security Act.

Falvey said the marine highway will be working closely with the Coast Guard, which will evaluate the level of necessary screening.

State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nona Wilson said some people boarding with vehicles will be asked to show their car registration.

The marine highway system received $1 million in federal grants to pay for upgrades and is requesting another $100,000 to update vessel locks and further improve security, she said.

The marine highway is upgrading fencing and lighting at its ports. Bomb-sniffing dogs and handlers won't be added, except is Washington state.

In Alaska, it would be impractical to prohibit transport of firearms, but people will be required to put them in a case and check them in before boarding. Previously, people have been asked to leave weapons with the ship's purser.

Wilson said people won't have to go through metal detectors. The marine highway transports people hunting, moving and backpacking, she said.

Ferries have been upgraded to include automated identification systems, similar to transponders on aircraft, that signal their location and status, Falvey said.

The level of security people notice nationwide will depend on the determined risk, he said. "Newark, N.J., is at a much higher risk than Hoonah."

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