July 1, 2004, is the deadline for the Maine State Ferry Service and Casco Bay Lines to be in full compliance with Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA). Effective nationwide, MTSA applies to anything relative to maritime transportation – cargo and passengers – adjacent, on or under navigatible waters.
Passengers can expect themselves, their vehicles and their baggage to be screened. Surveillance cameras will be installed on ferryboats and in terminals. Access to newly restricted areas will require personal ID procedures.
Ferries carrying 149 passengers or fewer, such as the Monhegan boat, are exempt from the MTSA.
Jim MacLeod, Manager of the Maine State Ferries, explained their goal is to apply the new regulations in a common sense way. “We’re not trying to institute security that scares kids,” he said.
But MacLeod couldn’t be specific. “That is security censored information,” he said.
MacLeod hopes that the new security measures will not impact ferry schedules. But it is possible that the time required to be in line ahead of departure might increase from 15 minutes to 30 minutes.
Plans drawn up to comply with the MTSA, due last Dec. 31, should be approved by the Coast Guard by April 1, MacLeod said. Then he will begin training ferry employees. They will start implementing the new security measures in June in order to be in full compliance by July 1.
MacLeod said the new security will create seven new positions, some of them fulltime. Several current positions, part time and seasonal, will be upgraded. Four of the new positions will be island-based, three on the mainland.
The Maine State Ferry Service operates 7 ferries crossing to Islesboro, North Haven, Vinalhaven, Swan’s Island, Frenchboro Long Island and Matinicus.
In Portland, Casco Bay Lines (CBL) runs four ferries and keeps a fifth for private parties and emergencies.
Rocky Horr, CBL’s assistant operations manager, has worked on the security preparation and planning. He doesn’t think that CBL will be hiring many new employees because the seasonal increase in Casco Bay Lines’ workforce will be able to absorb the additional responsibilities. For example, the duties of a Facilities Security Officer, required for every ferry terminal, can be added to those of an existing employee, Horr said.
Horr points out that the public may not realize that many transportation networks already have security systems operating. Amtrak, Greyhound and airports as well as CBL have security systems that will now become more visible as their responsibilities increase.
Horr notes that some passengers feel that their rights will be abused with more visible and obstrusive security
Horr and MacLeod both said that the islands probably wouldn’t be as likely targets as commercial tankers or cargo ships entering Maine’s bays.
After initial skepticism, both men felt that additional security made sense. MacLeod pointed out that ferry terminals and boats operate under different rules than airports, so different kinds of security measures are needed. Islanders may own firearms and transport them in their vehicles, something airplane passengers cannot do. “Firearms will have to be in a case, not brandished,” said MacLeod.
CBL, officially the Casco Bay Island Transit District, differs from the Maine State Ferry System because it is a quasi-municipal, nonprofit corporation. Established in 1981, it is owned and operated by the residents of six Casco Bay islands, and governed by a board of 12 directors. All but two are elected from the islands. Portland and the Commissioner of the state Department of Transportation appoint the other two.
CBL carries freight cargo that requires a crane in addition to passenger and vehicle traffic. Maine State ferries only carry “roll on-roll off” – passengers and vehicles.
The Maine State Ferry System is under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Transportation. Citizens’ concerns are addressed through its Ferry Advisory Committee made of representatives from each town that has a ferry terminal.
Recently, after a waiver to be exempt from the new security regulations was denied, the Ferry Advisory Committee reluctantly approved of a 15 percent increase in ticket prices to pay for the required security measures.
It’s this cost that worries most islanders. Heather Shields Brown, on North Haven, said an increase of 15 percent would have a considerable impact on islanders. She felt the additional security “was totally inappropriate” considering that the population traveling on the ferries is essentially the same. “It’s just 1,500 people from Vinalhaven and North Haven coming into Rockland,” she said.
MacLeod said the ferry service will have to pay up front for the changes, but hopes for after-the-fact funding from money coming down from U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
On Maine’s ballot in the November election will be a bond issue for $150,000 to pay for security hardware such as cameras. MacLeod estimates that cost to range from $100,000 to $200,000.
In Portland, Horr said, CBL passenger and cargo prices were recently revised and increased to make up last year’s budget shortfall.
Portland recently received a $71,000 Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) grant for port and terminal security. Horr expects future funding from TSA grants.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins is chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees the Department of Homeland Security. A committee staff member said the 2005 fiscal year budget is still being drafted, and that grant amounts are not known at this time.