Coast Guard tipping off some large commercial ships about surprise security searches

Published: Friday May 19, 2006

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The Coast Guard has been warning some large commercial ships to look out for surprise security searches, according to an article set for Saturday's New York Times, RAW STORY has found.

Excerpts from the article:


Under intense pressure from shipping companies concerned about costly delays, the Coast Guard is tipping off some large commercial ships about security searches that had been a surprise, high-ranking Coast Guard officials have said.

The searches began after the Sept. 11 attacks as part of a major revamping of the Coast Guard and its new anti-terrorism mission. But shipping companies say the surprise boardings at sea cause unnecessary delays, costing up to $40,000 an hour.

"We're trying to facilitate commerce and keep the port secure -- and sometimes the two conflict," said Capt. Paul E. Wiedenhoeft, who is in charge of the port complex here at Los Angeles and Long Beach. "When possible, we're trying to give shippers as much notice as we can."

The practice has caused considerable confusion and debate within the Coast Guard. Commanders in some ports acknowledged in interviews that they provided up to 24-hour notice. Others said the practice undermined the inspections.

Even within the command at some ports, there was disagreement about the best approach. The port captain in San Francisco, Capt. William J. Uberti, said shippers were "not supposed to have a clue" about possible random boardings. Yet his security chief said the command gave shippers notice.