Port guards found sleeping

Company is replaced after repeated lapses

Coast Guard spotted offenders

Security was tightened after 2001 terrorist attacks

February 22, 2005|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

The port of Baltimore said yesterday that security guards hired since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have been found sleeping on the job by Coast Guard inspectors, but officials said new guards have been put in place and that no other major security lapses have been found.

The guards, who worked for Newark, N.J.-based Internal Intelligence Service, were replaced in October with about a year and a half left on the company's three-year contract.

Internal Intelligence was removed from another job, guarding the Bergen County, N.J., municipal building, in 2002 also after reports of guards sleeping, coming to work late or not reporting to work at all, according to New Jersey media accounts. No one in Bergen County or at the company could be reached for comment yesterday.

The lapse at the Baltimore port was brought to the attention of James J. White, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration, which oversees the state's public ports, in a September memo from a port procurement officer. The memo was first reported Saturday by The Washington Post.

"On numerous occasions, the contractor's employees have failed to properly cover posts, vacated posts without being relieved and have been found sleeping at posts," said the memo written by Mark Krysiak, the procurement officer.

"Although the contractor has been made aware of these deficiencies, little, if any, corrective action has been taken. This substandard and negligent performance has culminated in reports by the United States Coast Guard that routine inspection found guards inattentive to duties, lacking adequate knowledge of security procedures and even sleeping on duty in violation of the federally mandated Port Security Plan."

Legislation passed in 2002 required the public port, about 50 private terminals in the area and vessels using the facilities to develop security plans. The Coast Guard has been enforcing them since July.

In a recent interview, Capt. Curt Springer, regional commander for the Coast Guard, said the terminal operators and vessels personnel have been cooperative and that all are in compliance with the law.

About 30 members of the Coast Guard have been assigned to routinely inspect ships and terminals in the region. U.S. Customs officials also conduct inspections. Springer said there have been a few violations, such as foreign-flagged vessels carrying copies instead of originals of a required certificate stating they have passed international security inspections.

Lt. Charles Bright, a spokesman for the Coast Guard, said yesterday that he could not comment on specific violations.

"In general, with added security we feel we are addressing some items that weren't addressed before," he said. "From all facilities, we're getting good cooperation."

After inspectors found problems with the port's security company, Maryland officials immediately moved to replace it with New Jersey-based Securitas Security Services USA Inc., which helped provide security during the presidential inaugural ceremonies in Washington.

Securitas Security Services has a one-year contract through November and a one-year renewal option, worth $1 million. The state Board of Public Works approved the request Feb. 2.

Darlene Frank, a spokeswoman for the port, said there was no disruption in security services and that she knew of no other significant security lapses.

"I think we moved extremely swiftly," she said.

The port has received about $11 million in federal grants and $3 million in state money for security since 2001. In addition to adding guards, the port plans to install automated entrance gates, fences with motion-detecting fiber-optics and other security equipment, she said.

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