Florida Port Considers Establishing School for Security Training

Port Manatee has begun security training for other ports and is toying with the possibility of creating a future security training academy.

"Port Manatee has one of the most qualified security teams in the state and the country," said David McDonald, the port's executive director. "We have begun training other sea ports for port security training that the federal and state governments require."

Facility security training courses that comply with all International Ship and Port Facility Security Code and Marine Transportation Security Act of 2002 are available at the port in three options.

An 18-hour facility-security, officer-training course presented over two days is available for $300. Security personnel training in a four-hour workshop and familiarization for facility personnel classes are also available.

The Port of Tampa, Port Canaveral and ports from as far as Connecticut and New York have already taken advantage of training Port Manatee provides.

"We have also thought of creating a maritime academy," McDonald said.

The port has had preliminary discussions with the Manatee County School Board and Manatee Technical Institute, with the possibility existing to form a partnership to students involved in security officer training from MTI.

"A seed has been planted, and it is getting ready to sprout up," McDonald said. "We want the community to be aware of our commitment to security and what we are doing here."

Port Authority member Patricia Glass said security training is a great idea and offered more advice that may help the program.

"Homeland Security funding is available if we hurry up and ask for it," Glass said. She emphasized that Congresswoman Katherine Harris of Sarasota sits on the board of Homeland Security.

Port Manatee's commitment to security has beefed up tremendously since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The port employs about 20 full- and part-time security officers.

"Pre 9-11, Port Manatee's security budget was about $100,000," said Steve Hollister, the port's communications director. "In fiscal year 2005, that budget is over $1 million."

Six months ago, the port hired Port Manatee Compliance Manager David St. Pierre, who has made sure the port is up-to-date on all federal, state and local requirements.

"David St. Pierre has developed a program for other ports and his expertise from the Coast Guard has been instrumental in these programs and future ideas," McDonald said.

St. Pierre was out of town and unavailable for comment.

A motion at Thursday's meeting by Port Authority member Joe McClash was carried that endorsed a port security academy concept. The port will update the authority on the concept at next month's meeting.