USCG photo :personnel with bomb-sniffing dog inspecting passengers boarding Staten Island Ferry

Ferries notch up security measures

In the wake of the London terrorist bombings on July 7, the U.S. government raised its terrorist threat level to Orange or "High" for the mass transit portion of the transportation sector. Additionally, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thomas H. Collins raised the Maritime Security Threat Level from MARSEC 1 to MARSEC 2 for all ferries certified to carry 150 passengers or more. The order will remain in effect indefinitely.

Raising the Security Threat Level to MARSEC 2, triggers a series of measures contained in vessel, port and facility security plans that were filed in accordance with the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA).

Adm. Collins said that ferry passengers should expect to see increased screening of their vehicles and bags, increased ID checks and additional security and law enforcement personnel. Ferry passengers, said Collins, should plan additional time in their commutes to compensate for these added security measures.

At a press briefing following the London attacks, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said that there was no specific information suggesting an attack against public mass transit was imminent. "However," said Secretary Chertoff, "we know the tactics and methods of terrorists as demonstrated by the horrific rail bombings last year in Madrid."

Chertoff said the DHS asked state and local authorities to ratchet up the protective measures for mass transit, including adding police, bomb detecting canine teams, increased video surveillance, spot-checking in certain areas, added perimeter barriers, extra intrusion detection equipment, and increased inspection of trash receptacles.

U.S. Coast Guard personnel also began riding certain ferry systems and providing vessel escort for ferries on certain routes. On the East Coast, for example, U.S. Coast Guard vessels escorted ferries in New York Harbor and between Point Judith and Block Island, R.I.

Other measures included the use of bomb-sniffing dogs to screen passengers and vehicles.

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