Monday, July 18, 2005

Draw your own conclusions

Some changes noted along the waterfront.

From my old stomping grounds in southern New England:
The Block Island ferry has company these days: armed escort vessels from the Coast Guard.

They are part of the heightened security measures on all public transportation since the terror attacks in London, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Elena Soini. Two Coast Guard vessels are usually dispatched to escort each ferry, she said.
Or, how about in the reaches of Alaska?
Armed Coast Guard boats are escorting Alaska state ferries in response to the bombings in London last week.

The machine gun boats meet the ferries several miles from a destination and accompany them to the docks.

The security escorts are among precautions taken when the government's maritime security is at its second level, color-coded orange, officials said.

Coast Guard officials said Tuesday its present mission is to escort commuter vessels carrying 150 passengers or more — in this case Alaska state ferries.

The guns are an unusual sight along the waterfront.

''It's a little odd to see machine guns on the front of a boat out here,'' said Rob Sanford, manager at Hangar on the Wharf Restaurant.
Or northern California?
In the wake of London's deadly terrorist attacks, armed Coast Guard officers and fortified boats are now escorting the hundreds of commuters taking the Vallejo-San Francisco ferry, officials said Friday.

Several Coast Guard sea marshals accompanied Vallejo Baylink ferries at random times Thursday and Friday, said Capt. Chuck Elles of the Solano, one of four Vallejo ferries that shuttle commuters and tourists between the two cities.

Coast Guard vessels equipped with large caliber guns also escorted the ferries to and from San Francisco, where the Ferry Building and other public piers are crawling with police, Elles said.
Nation-wide?
The U.S. Coast Guard has ordered large ferry operators to step up security on more than 300 passenger ships across the country following the terrorist attacks in London.

Coast Guard vessels will escort ferries, and recreational boaters should be aware of security zones and restricted waters around marine transportation routes, said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Carter, a spokesman.

"We have no specific intelligence indicating a direct threat to ferries," Carter said. "However, it is prudent to increase security on this vital transportation link that carries more than 135 million people each year."

Passengers have been advised to arrive 30 minutes before departure on some ferry systems -- twice the normal time -- to allow for the additional screening.

The largest number of passenger ferries are concentrated on the northeast and Pacific northwest coasts. Virginia and North Carolina are also major operators.
Is it a move to protect the public? Or is it a move to get Congress to better fund the Coast Guard?
Three weeks before London's bus and subway bombings, a Senate committee voted to slash spending on mass transit security in the United States -- a decision sure to be reversed when Congress returns next week.

At a minimum, the Senate will restore the $50 million cut, G. William Hoagland, top budget aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said yesterday.

There is pressure for a lot more, though adding to rail and transit security programs means cutting elsewhere in the Homeland Security Department's $32 billion budget for next year.
Or, would we say we need to do this shepherding, but we don't have the funding for it... You know, hold our elected officials hostage...

Now, of course, if I were a terrorist, I'd avoid ferries that can hold more than 150 passengers. I'd look at little ferries, ferries that hold less than 150 passengers. Ideally, perhaps I'd find such a ferry that regularly passes by critical infrastructure. I could take over the ferry and, with little notice, use the entire ferry as a weapon, perhaps taking out a floating drydock or a Navy vessel.

I wonder where I could find such a set-up?

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