Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Port Security: Canada has problems

As reported in Via clerk’s tip fell on deaf ears: Suspicious actions at Halifax station reported, ignored:
A Via ticket agent suspicious of the behaviour of four men who turned out to be stowaways called a Canada Border Services Agency tip line on Sunday, but was told the agency couldn’t act without more information.
In Sunday’s case, the four stowaways travelled across the Atlantic Ocean hidden in a bus on a container ship and then sprinted away from a single commissionaire staffing the entrance of the Cerescorp container terminal in Halifax.

The four men, believed to be Algerian, then made their way to the Via Rail station in Halifax, where they offered to pay more than the listed price for tickets. They also wanted to buy the tickets using European currency.

"Their insistence on using either euros or French currency . . . and their willingness to pay in excess of the actual fare was certainly a red flag," Cox wrote to Kenny.

"I tried to contact the special unit of the RCMP, but there was no answer. I then called the 800 number for Border Services and, in turn, the suspicious-activity hotline. I spoke to a woman there and, incredibly, she told me that it was not within their jurisdiction to act without names or more information."

Cox’s e-mail says he contacted the RCMP’s Tantallon detachment and informed them the men were on their way to Halifax Stanfield International Airport to convert currency and that they intended to continue on to Truro — about an hour from Halifax by car — to catch a train.

The men got to Truro in a taxi and were captured by town police before boarding a train.
"They could have foregone the train and gone in any direction," he wrote. "This, as it turns out, was a lucky catch and was made in spite of Border Services."
Of course, a good newspaper follows up, as in Ex-top ports cop: 'We’re wide open':
anada needs a dedicated national police force to deal with incidents like the four stowaways who slipped into Halifax on Sunday, says the former chief of the city’s ports police.

The men, believed to be from Algeria, travelled across the Atlantic Ocean hidden in a bus on a container ship and then sprinted away from the commissionaire staffing the entrance of the Cerescorp container terminal in Fairview. Authorities eventually caught the foursome about five hours later in Truro as they prepared to board a train.

"Right now, they throw a lot of publicity at it and they say the system’s working well and they got these guys," said Bruce Brine, who headed the Halifax ports police more than a decade ago.

"And I can appreciate that. They’re police executives and they have to maintain a positive public image. But basically, we’re wide open and this incident the other day just shows it.

"They were just illegals trying to get in. If they were actually organized, they would have been more covert.

""What it amounts to is anybody who wants to get into the country illegally can."
"Let’s say an American cruise ship comes in and something happens, somebody gets at it because there’s no waterside security and the thing’s blown up and we have hundreds of people killed. Who is going to get sued?"

It would probably take a major terrorist attack in a Canadian port to revive the ports police, said Mike Toddington, executive director of the International Association of Airport and Seaport Police.

"Had the port police been around at the time of 9-11, there would have been absolutely no consideration of getting rid of the port police," said Mr. Toddington, who used to head the Vancouver ports police.

Mr. Brine said he has talked to some of his former waterfront contacts about how the four stowaways were acting Sunday at Cerescorp.

"I understand it was quite comical because, basically, even people were pointing at the gates where they could exit when they were running around like chickens with their heads cut off," he said. "I’ve spoken to one person who said it was totally ludicrous because there’s nobody on-site (to deal with stowaways)."

The commissionaire who tried to stop them isn’t supposed to be a security guard, said Murray Lee, chief executive officer of Commissionaires Nova Scotia. He’s meant to check trucks and trains coming into Ceresport, Mr. Lee said.

"We’re not harbour police; we don’t do security down in the docks," he said. "What we do is control access into the facility."
And if they get to Canada...

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