CARICOM Ports ISPS CompliantFollowing the September 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre, the United States government urged the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to enact an International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) Code.by Norman Faria
Among its provisions: any foreign ports which are visited by vessels going to US ports must have certain minimum security measures in place. The Code came into effect in July 2004. Non-compliance would mean US-bound ships would not call at a port, resulting in economic disruption of that country.
How have the English-speaking countries in CARICOM, the sub-regional group of countries in the Eastern Caribbean (Jamaica, Haiti, Suriname and Belize are also included), come to terms with the Code?
They are compliant, says Louis Sealy, Chief of Security at the Bridgetown Port in Barbados. "The CARICOM countries with major ports which handle international trade, and especially US-bound traffic, are all compliant. Our General Manager, Everton Walters, is the current president of the ten-member Port Management Association of the Caribbean (PMAC) and Barbados has been on top of developments in this area from the beginning," Mr. Sealy said in an interview with Compass.
He added that the introduction of new security measures entailed spending considerable sums of money but that, in the interests of continued economic development and progress of the countries concerned, it was necessary.
Citing security concerns, Mr. Sealy gave no details about the newly introduced measures but noted these were "improved and effective". Those regularly using the Bridgetown port have, however, noticed changes including more stringent enforcement of the identity card system. There has also been a clamp-down on entry into the port compound of taxis not connected to what Mr. Sealy referred to as the "transportation system" at the port. This past January, he upheld a ban on unauthorized cabs after protests by affected cabbies. "They are not part of the transportation system at the port. You have at the port 200 taxis working. They're registered here and they all carry identification passes. So we have a responsibility to them."
Sealy's disclosure on costs to regional port managements were also mentioned by the Consultant on Trade and Economic Development with the CARICOM Secretariat, Byron Blake, when he met with IMO officials in July last year.
"It is not a one-time cost. Although there is a heavy up-front component, there is a running cost that is going to be with us over time," said Blake.
In that same month, the Barbados Port Authority organized an upgrading Maritime Security Management and Operations Course for stakeholders, both within the port and nationally.
In his speech at the closing ceremony, Barbados' Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Noel Lynch, noted that security measures at seaports were not the concerns of only port managers. He said the responsibility also lay with "all government regulatory agencies and enforcement agencies."
In his remarks, General Manager of the Barbados Port Inc., Everton Walters, observed: "It is our aim that this region where the security threat and vulnerabilities are miminised, we can always recommend this region to be what we can describe as a safe zone."
Mr. Sealy said he had no up-to-date information on the compliance of Francophone (those of Martinique and Guadeloupe, for example) and Hispanic (in the Dominican Republic, for example) ports. He however said that because ports in those countries also handled international trade vessels, both freighters and cruise liners, they will have taken steps to become ISPS compliant.
Also becoming compliant would be Central and South American ports in the circum-Caribbean region, especially those handling cruise liners which take on and discharge passengers on the US mainland.
With regard to foreign yachts visiting Barbados' two ports of entry (Bridgetown and Port St. Charles) he said that yacht skippers and crews would have to comply with any regulations set down by port management. Presently, and unlike the situation in many other regional countries, where a yacht skipper can anchor out and dinghy ashore to clear, in Barbados, skippers are required to tie up their boats at one of the two ports after arrival and clear Customs and Immigration there. Barbados also prohibits visiting yachts from overnight anchoring anywhere along its coasts other than in the designated open roadstead anchorage in Carlisle Bay. The Barbados Customs Department may, however, give permission when an application is made in writing for boats to anchor in designated areas off two smaller towns on the west coast, Speightstown and Holetown.
This coast is regularly patrolled by Barbados Coast Guard craft. While Barbados might not have a terrorist problem per se, in recent years the island has seen an increase in landings of illicit drugs from neighbouring islands in non-yacht craft. There have been several shoot-outs with Barbadian law enforcement personnel when drug smugglers were cornered. At least one police station has several such seized drug smugglers' craft, mainly pirogue-types with powerful outboard engines, piled up in its yard awaiting the outcome of court cases.
Copyright© 2005 Compass Publishing