Los Angeles port looks for better identification of employees

Published 7 February 2006

More than 43 percent of all cargo arriving in the United States by sea arrives through the Los Angeles/Long Beach ports, and port security managers want to make sure they know who their employees are

Completion of a new identification card system for port workers is the most urgent security need for the Los Angeles/Long Beach harbor complex, a top security official said last week. George Cummings, director of homeland security for the Port of Los Angeles, said major progress was being made on several anti-terrorism initiatives, from the installation of cameras to the addition of radiation screening equipment at the ports’ fourteen container terminals.

The credential program, however, remains the “major missing piece” in the port of Los Angeles’ security efforts, Cummings said. “We are anxious, to say the least, to see that program come forward for national implementation,” he said. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle 43 percent of the cargo delivered into the United States by sea.

John MacIntyre, program manager for homeland security at the Unified Port of San Diego, said in an interview he wants various security agencies — from the police to the U.S. Border Patrol — to improve the way they share information. While those agencies now have radio equipment with “interoperability,” or the ability to communicate on the same frequency, more training is needed to make sure they talk successfully. “It’s one thing to have a radio,” he said. “It’s another thing to be able to pick it up, use it and talk freely and clearly understand who’s on the other end of it.”

Cummings spoke at a roundtable on port security organized by DHS. The roundtable featured officials from the Port of Los Angeles and the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and Border Patrol. In addition to the ID system, panelists spoke about new security cameras and greater screening of cargo containers at overseas ports. Oakland already conducts radiation screening for 100 percent of the containers that arrive in its harbor, said Matt Bettenhausen, director of the Office of Homeland Security. The screening process is so acute that it has been triggered by port workers who recently received chemotherapy, said one official. By the end of the year, Los Angeles and Long Beach will have finished installing devices to detect radiation in all the containers that are heading inland from the two harbors. “The goal is, over the next calendar year, to get all that up 100 percent — every container will go through that (screening),” Bettenhausen said.

-read more in this report