May 7, 2003
Security lapses delay cruise ship sailing
After three separate breaches of security occurred Monday during the passenger embarkation process, the Coast Guard Captain of the Port New Orleans, Capt. Ron Branch, ordered the Holiday to remain at the Julia Street Terminal until all passengers and luggage were screened again.
Coast Guard investigators, a law enforcement boarding team, and the Coast Guard Investigative Service remained aboard the ship to investigate and provide security
At least 200 passengers reportedly opted to go home, declining to deal with a second trip through security and were given a refund. Those who stayed received a $100 credit to pay for expenses on board the vessel as well as a certificate for a 25 percent discount on the cost of a future cruise.
Approximately 3 p.m. Monday, Coast Guard personnel aboard Holiday received a report from a passenger, also a policeman, that he left his handgun in his luggage. After locating and searching the luggage, the weapon, a .38-caliber handgun, was found and placed in a secure location.
About an hour later, Holiday crewmembers discovered four bullets on a passageway floor. The ammunition was inspected and it was confirmed that the bullets did not match the weapon found earlier. Additionally, at 4:15 p.m., Coast Guard investigators learned that an individual operating the baggage screening equipment had not received the necessary training.
At 10 p.m. Monday, another passenger reported that his father, also a passenger, had ammunition in his luggage. Upon further investigation, that ammunition was located and inspected, but did not match the four bullets or the weapon found.
Finally, at 1 a.m. Tuesday, following an announcement over the vessel's public address system, a passenger came forward and identified the four bullets, which were located on the passageway floor. The bullets matched more ammunition and a weapon in the man's vehicle.
Although all weapons and ammunition have been located and secured, Coast Guard crews remain aboard. Additionally, the Captain of the Port order to rescreen the ship's passengers, their luggage and staterooms, remains in effect due to the unqualified baggage screener operating the screening equipment for an unknown period of time.
"Passenger safety is our primary concern," said Lt. Natalie Magnino, spokesperson for the Eighth Coast Guard District, headquartered in New Orleans. "We recognize the short-term inconvenience for passengers, but must ensure their safety and the security of the vessel prior to sailing."