Md. wins millions for port security

51 areas in U.S. to get grants

September 30, 2006|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,Sun reporter

The port of Baltimore and Maryland waterways won $4.8 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the largest one-time pot of money the state has received in six rounds of funding for maritime security.

The money is part of $168 million awarded to 51 ports identified by the U.S. Coast Guard as the nation's most critical seaports after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It will be used in Maryland for such items as surveillance boats and a new operations center with jurisdiction in the Baltimore port, as well as the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River, according to Dennis R. Schrader, director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security.

Schrader said the state's list of needs was compiled after a comprehensive study by the Coast Guard, state agencies and local maritime and law enforcement entities. Most of the money will bolster waterside defenses, while past federal awards for the port went mainly to landside improvements.

"We had a plan developed over the last two years and we had a list of projects identified by it," Schrader said. "We were delighted because the grants will allow a pretty significant step forward in our plan."

Included in the $4.8 million:

$3.1 million for a maritime operations center, which will be a physical command center that will coordinate any response to a maritime emergency. The state Department of Natural Resources will take the lead, coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Maryland Transportation Authority police, state police, Baltimore City police, Anne Arundel police and Natural Resources police.

$982,000 for swift response vessels, which are small boats capable of intercepting other small craft that may be a threat. They come with night vision equipment, thermal cameras, trailers and tow vehicles.

$608,000 for two tactical vessels built for shallow water. They will enforce a security zone around critical infrastructure and stationary vessels.

$53,000 for underwater intrusion detection equipment, or sonar, to detect objects under water such as a bomb or missing person.

About $1.6 million in state funding will match the federal grants. The port of Baltimore has received about $11 million in other rounds of federal funding since 2002, with the state pitching in $4.3 million in the same time.

The announcement of the grant money, disclosed earlier in The Washington Post, comes in advance of a new port security bill debated by Congress last night that would authorize various programs to further secure the nation's 361 ports.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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