New Washington State Patrol Division Will Focus on Ferry Security

Ferries along Washington coast are largest fleet in the nation


SEATTLE (AP) - A new Washington State Patrol division will work with state and federal agencies to bolster security on the nation's largest fleet of ferries, Gov. Christine Gregoire said Thursday.

The Vessel and Terminal Security Division will be a partnership linking the State Patrol, Washington State Ferries, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Steve Sutton, a 17-year veteran with the State Patrol, was named captain of VATS, which will be headquartered at the U.S. Coast Guard's office at Pier 36, with satellite branches in Bremerton, Poulsbo and Marysville.

Sutton will oversee the coordination of troopers and sergeants who used to be spread among three districts with three supervisors.

"This enhanced federal, state and local partnership provides a more centralized organizational structure and a coordinated operational emergency response," Maj. Timothy Lowenberg, head of Washington's National Guard and chief homeland security adviser, said at a news conference at Colman dock.

Gregoire couldn't attend the news conference. She had traveled to Yakima on Thursday to declare a statewide drought emergency.

She had Lowenberg read a statement in her absence: "As the third-largest ferry system in the world and a key asset here in Washington to our economic vitality, we need to ensure the safety of this system," Gregoire said. "We need to keep it running smoothly and safely for our commuters and tourists."

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