The U.S. Coast Guard, the city and the state are evaluating whether Juneau's downtown dock will be open to the public while cruise ships are in port next summer, Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Marsha Delaney said.
"We know it's a nice place to walk. But if effective security can't be maintained, we will have to restrict access. If it can be reasonably accommodated, it will be considered," she said.
Under direction from the Coast Guard, the city put up plastic tape to keep pedestrians off the city's wharves in the days following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said Port Director Joe Graham. The restrictions were lifted at the end of the cruise ship season.
The security measures are outlined in the city's 1997 emergency communications plan, which is required by the federal government. Graham said he and the city's Harbors Board are now reviewing the document and plan to propose a revision by late November or early December. They hope to allow public access to the wharves under reasonable circumstances, Graham said.
"We think we can develop a plan that can satisfy the public-access and security issues," he said.
In mid-October, the Coast Guard implemented new safety and security measures nationwide. Most commercial vessels are required to give the new National Vessel Movement Center 96-hour notice before arrival. The Coast Guard now checks crew rosters by home country, Delaney said.
"It's another tool for the Coast Guard, Customs, and the (Immigration and Naturalization Service) to use to evaluate potential threats," she said.
Boarding an Alaska cruise ship next summer will be similar to boarding an airplane, with checkpoint screening and photo identification required, she added. Right now, the Coast Guard is working with communities, the cruise lines and the state about safety issues. People can expect to see more security next summer, Delaney said.
"Because of the sheer volume of people that are on a ship, it's a shock value for a terrorist attack. It's something the Coast Guard knows and is concerned about," she said.
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