Port Manatee Makes Security a Top Priority

Port ups security spending to keep up with focus on entry-point security

Port Manatee is one of three Florida ports participating in a test of security access cards for transportation workers. Currently, each seaport requires its own credentials. If adopted, the system will create uniformity, allowing workers access to multiple Florida ports using a single ID. It could be adopted nationwide, Holden said.

Visitors to the port also need a photo ID. After five visits in a 90-day period, they must submit to an FBI background check, which costs about $70 for an annual pass and is paid for by the visitor.

Starting early next year, fingerprint biometrics will augment a background check required for all workers and frequent visitors.

Port Manatee is the only U.S. port certified to offer training by the U.S. Maritime Administration. Holden and his staff have developed a curriculum to meet the standards set by the Marine Transportation Security Act of 2002. The act requires each vessel and each facility on land to have its own security officer.

Port officials host training for other ports around the United States or travel to them and are reimbursed for their costs.

Narcotics training, immigration issues and theft were all being addressed at seaports prior to Sept. 11, Holden said

"After 9/11, terrorism was added as a priority," he said.