Security top priority at SVG Port Authority
December 6, 2013
Security top priority at SVG Port Authority

The Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines is making security at the ports of the country a top priority.{{more}}

Through the collaborative effort of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Port Authority (SVGPA), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Committee on Ports (CIP), a two-day workshop was held yesterday for persons in charge of security at the port.

One of the topics addressed during the seminar was the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, which speaks to the enhancing of security of ships and port facilities.

While speaking at the opening ceremony yesterday, the chair of SVGPA, Edwin Snagg, said that his initial thought about the ISPS code was a frightening one.

“The first time the ISPS code surfaced and we here in St Vincent and the Grenadines saw this document, [we] saw something that [we] really didn’t quite understand. And one has to be honest; we went overboard because of our understanding of what the ISPS code was about,” he said.

After stating what the code was about, Snagg stressed that for security measures to be implemented, persons must be mindful of the difficulties that smaller economies may encounter, especially “in these trying times with some of the stringent methods and proposals.”

“I think that we more or less have gone past that. I have seen ports in the US that don’t have the level of security that we have at our little port in Kingstown and it’s a reality,” the chair said.

“We have heard that sometime in the near future that it may be necessary for us to have a scanner to scan containers that are going into the US. I am hoping that that is not implemented too soon, or if it has to be implemented, that there certainly will be support from the US or other major countries where the cost is concerned, because it is a very frightening proposition for us as a small country to think about scanning every container. I mean the cost for us is very prohibitive”.

Michael Brown, the International Port Security Evaluation Division Commandant for the United States Coast Guard, highlighted the importance of sharing ideas and views as it relates to security.

Brown declared that both the government and private sector have key roles to play in keeping ports safe and secure.

“We believe that international security is an international problem and it requires an international solution. Only by working together, by collaborating, by sharing the wealth of knowledge that is in a seminar like this can we all be successful,” he said.

“Both the Government and private sector have a role to play in keeping ports safe and secure and to keep commerce flowing because after all, maritime commerce is the life blood of all of our economies, whether we are the United States, Grenada, St Vincent, St Kitts, Dominica Belize, it doesn’t matter. All of us depend on maritime commerce; so it is in all of our interests to ensure that our ports are secure”.

The seminar, which will conclude this evening, is in keeping with the objectives of the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE).

CICTE representative Shevaun Culmer indicated that through the organization’s maritime programme, they seek to identify and provide OAS member states with technical assistance and assistance in training to aid in meeting the standards of international maritime and other international security standards related to ports.

“CICTE objectives in this regard are to strengthen counter terrorism and law enforcement capabilities within the port facilities and enhance coordination among the relevant government authorities responsible for maritime security,” Culmer indicated. “This programme is just one of the ways that OAS/CICTE collaborates with other agencies to fulfill similar objectives in order to better assist OAS member states”.

Representative of the Inter-American Committee on Ports Ernesto Fernandez also addressed participants.

In his brief remarks, Fernandez said that he hoped that “with this seminar, we will equip you all with knowledge, skills and techniques necessary to deal with …port security and safety challenges so you mitigate risk of security and increase efficiency”.

Representatives from Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force, surveillance officers from the SVGPA and delegations from Dominica, Belize, Grenada and Suriname attended the workshop and will receive their certificates at the closing ceremony, which will be held at the Cruise Ship Terminal at 6 p.m.(BK)