[ OUR OPINION ]
Global shipping security
rules make Hawaii safer
SECURITY at Honolulu Harbor and the nation's other 360 sea ports has been a matter of concern since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the East Coast. A treaty signed by 148 counties in 2002 was aimed at requiring all ships to be equipped with various tools to guard against terrorism. Those rules went into effect on Thursday, along with increased security requirements at all U.S. ports. Hawaii residents have reason to feel safer because of those measures.
International measures designed to thwart terrorist attacks on ports and ships have taken effect at Honolulu Airport and elsewhere.
The security problem became apparent in Hawaii only months after the 9/11 attack, when a pallet that could have contained explosives was left unattended at Honolulu Harbor until specially trained dogs reacted to it. The congressional Government Accounting Office's JayEtta Z. Hecker told a House committee that the incident illustrated the importance of security measures.
However, any security system confined to U.S. ports would have been inadequate. The treaty resulted in an International Ship and Port Facility Security Code that requires port facilities, stevedoring companies and owners of ships larger than 500 tons to comply with the industry's most significant anti-terrorist plan since World War II. At the same time, U.S. ports and ships must comply with a maritime security law passed by Congress in November 2002.
As the plan went into effect, the United Nations' International Maritime Organization and industry groups indicated that nearly 80 percent of all cargo ships and 72 percent of all tankers had been approved for their security plans. Under the treaty, ships must have a security officer, an identification number visible from the air, an alarm system in case of a violent occurance on board and a 96-hour notice before reaching a port. The Coast Guard will begin boarding all foreign-flagged vessels, including cruise ships, upon their arrival.
The measures are especially important for Hawaii, which receives 90 percent of its goods by ship. Only 2 percent of those shipping containers are inspected. Under the new rules, all cargo eventually will have to pass through radiation detection devices. Most foreign shipments to Hawaii enter the United States via the mainland, and Coast Guard officials say California's major ports were in compliance on the eve of the deadline. Most of Asia's major shipping lines and container ports also are reported to have met the requirements.
A Honolulu Harbor user must show at the entrance gates a Hawaii driver's license, other identification and eventually a new identification card issued by the state Harbors Division specifically for waterfront use. Harbor users and vehicles are subject to possible searches and are advised to arrive 15 to 30 minutes earlier than normal to conduct business.
"Just as how our airports had to make the transition with new security measures, we will be asking the public for their patience as we put in similar measures at our harbors," state Transportation Director Rod Haraga told the Star-Bulletin's Allison Schaefers. "The highest priority is safety for all of our harbor users."