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USCG To Check Ports Worldwide
Associated Press
August 4, 2004

SINGAPORE - The U.S. Coast Guard will visit at least 130 countries to assess port security, its commanding officer in the Far East said Wednesday, as a top U.N. official said Africa was lagging behind in implementing anti-terror measures.

"We're really taking a look at ways to detect, deter and respond to attacks. For that we need to take a look at the persons who operate these ships," said Capt. Mike Blair, Coast Guard commander for the Far East.

The Coast Guard's plan to inspect ports in 130 countries worldwide comes after new U.N. regulations took effect on July 1 requiring ships and ports to have security plans and limit access to vulnerable areas such as engine rooms.

Coast Guard officials have already visited Singapore, Honduras and South Korea, Blair said at a maritime security conference here. He said ports in a total of 45 countries would be inspected this year but didn't say when the remainder would be checked.

With commercial ships transporting 80 percent of the world's goods, security experts worry that vessels and ports might make tempting targets for terrorists.

"There will be additional security on ships that come from those ports," said Blair. "It is one team, one fight in a worldwide effort to combat maritime terror."

He said the Coast Guard expelled or denied entry to 24 vessels at U.S. ports from July 1 to July 19 because they didn't have proper security measures in place.

The port visits dovetail with U.S. inspections of airports around the world in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Also Wednesday, Nicolaus Charalambous, the International Maritime Organization's head of maritime security, said Africa was "falling behind" other continents in complying with the U.N. body's new shipping and port regulations.

Just over half of the 30 countries in Africa had approved port security measures, said Charalambous. Countries in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were also slow to implement measures, he said.

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Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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