Crackdown begins in Miami

Crackdown begins in Miami

With 13 cargo ships due to arrive in the Port in Miami from foreign ports and several terminal facilities as yet uncertified, the U.S. Coast Guard's 7th District swept into action before dawn Thursday. At 7:30 a.m., 10 captains and a commander gathered in a soundproof marine security center at 7th District headquarters to review the plans for the first day of enforcement of the International Ship and Port Security Code and new rules under the Marine Transportation Security Act.

Earlier, Coast Guard Capt. James Watson, captain of the port for South Florida's five seaports, summed up the strategy. "If they show no compliance, no ISPS certificates, we are turning them around. If they come from a foreign port, but filed the proper advance notifications, we board them at the dock and check their paperwork and procedures. As far as the port terminals go, we have checked them first for safety and then for compliance. If they don't pass, we issue a captain-of-the-port order that any vessel at the terminal must depart and none can call."

In a briefing, the Coast Guard summarized the events of the day:

* The Christopher Dean, a coastal freighter from Freeport, Bahamas, had arrived overnight off Port Pierce without filing its 96-hour advance notice as required. It would be denied entry to the port and compelled to file a 24-hour notice and wait 24 hours offshore.

* Three unnamed tramp freighters on the Port of the Miami River would be issued captain-of-the-port orders to leave.

* The Tahome Express was denied entry to the Port of Miami in order to stand by for an inspection. With insufficient fuel to proceed to another port, a fuel barge was arranged. Boarding would take place at 11:30 a.m.

* The Bernuth Terminal, adjacent to the Coast Guard station and the Port of Miami Terminal Operating Co. terminal were awaiting inspection for ISPS compliance. For Bernuth, it would be the second and most important visit since Wednesday, when an inspection found safety problems sufficient to cause restriction of access.

* The freighter Sun Express was denied entry for 24 hours for failure to file proper advance-notice documentation.

* Small tugs had tied up illegally to a bridge on the Intracoastal Waterway.

* A sailing vessel in the Bahamas was found sailing illegally with passengers. It was placed under surveillance by the Coast Guard's new Hawkeye long-range cameras.

With the briefing completed and assignments made, Capt. Watson moved to the dock, where NBC's Today Show conducted a live interview. At 8 a.m., everyone on the base came to attention and saluted while colors were raised. "We got a lot of preliminaries done in advance so that we would not be backed up today with 13 vessels," Capt. Watson said. "Everyone had years of notice, so no one should be surprised when they are cited, boarded or turned away."

Meanwhile, the Maersk Norfolk out of Itajai, Brazil, and the CSA ATG cargo ship Yohjin out of Iquique, Chile, arrived without incident with the dawn.

The status on the base was so calm that it made arrangements to board the remaining 10 vessels and juggle national television and a change-of-command ceremony, complete with a full lunch, without a hitch.