Canada sets budget priorities for maritime security
The Canadian government unveiled a five-year, $300 million package of measures Friday to enhance maritime and cargo security in the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway and along ocean borders.
The announcement provided more details about the government's maritime security strategy that was outlined earlier in its 2005 budget.
The plan includes $22 million to operate fixed and mobile radiation detection machines at 10 major marine container terminals, which will enable Canada Border Services Agency to screen virtually all inbound containers entering the country or being transshipped to the United States. Containers traveling to the United States by rail could be screened twice because U.S. Customs and Border Protection also has radiation monitoring devices set up near rail crossings to check for radiation, but the drive-by systems are designed to operate as containers pass by without stopping.
Another $35 million is devoted to help the Coast Guard enforce industry compliance with Canadian law implementing the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, which requires vessel and port operators to adopt security protections in line with their individual security plans and designate security officers for each vessel.
The budget priorities build on the national maritime security policy issued last year.
“These initiatives will also benefit ' (the) marine shipping community by ensuring a greater federal security presence and response capacity in the Great Lakes region, and by helping to promote trade and economic growth in the area,” said Tony Valeri, a leader in the House of Commons, in a statement.
Canada’s decision “helps fulfill our commitment to work with the United States on collective security issues at our borders,” added Roy Cullen, representing the Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are designated to receive $64 million to enhance emergency response and waterside security on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system. Under the plan, the RCMP will establish for the first time a dedicated marine emergency response team capable of dealing with terrorist threats to vessels, ports, locks, international bridges, nuclear power plants and refineries. Under the current system, emergency personnel must be transported from the Atlantic region to respond to incidents in the inland waterways.
New vessel boarding teams will be established at ports in Toronto and Hamilton and existing interception teams in Montreal, Vancouver and Halifax will be expanded. A recent risk assessment conducted by the RCMP found that criminals were moving their activities away from the major ports to secondary ports where less monitoring by law enforcement takes place.
A new RCMP office will be responsible for coordinating port security with local police. Its first task will be to identify available resources in the area in the event of a terrorist incident.
The plan also creates a multiagency command center for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, including an interim center this summer; adds four new patrol boats jointly crewed by the RCMP and the Coast Guard; and provides $5 million to extend the automatic identification system for tracking vessels in the Upper Great Lakes.