The port of Baltimore said yesterday that security guards hired since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were found sleeping on the job by U.S. Coast Guard inspectors, but officials said new guards already have been put in place and no other major security lapses have been found.
The guards worked for Newark, N.J.-based Internal Intelligence Service and were replaced in October with about a year and a half left on the firm's three-year contract.
The firm had been removed from another job guarding the Bergen County municipal building in 2002 also after reports of guards sleeping, coming to work late and not reporting to work at all, according to New Jersey media accounts. No one in Bergen County or at the company could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The lapse at the Baltimore port was brought to the attention of James White, the executive director of the Maryland Port Administration, which oversees the state's public ports, in a September memo from a port procurement officer. The memo was first reported Saturday by the Washington Post.
"On numerous occasions, the contractor's employees have failed to properly cover posts, vacated posts without being relived and have been found sleeping at posts," said the memo written by Mark Krysiak, the procurement officer.
"Although the contractor has been made aware of these deficiencies, little, if any, corrective action has been taken. This substandard and negligent performance has culminated in reports by the United States Coast Guard that routine inspection found guards inattentive to duties, lacking adequate knowledge of security procedures and even sleeping on duty in violation of the federally mandated Port Security Plan."
Legislation passed in 2002 required the public port, about 50 other private terminals in the area and vessels using the facilities to develop security plans. The Coast Guard has been enforcing them since July.
In a recent interview, Capt. Curt Springer, regional commander for the Coast Guard, said the terminal operators and vessels have been cooperative and all are in compliance of the laws.
About 30 members of the guard have been assigned to routinely inspect ships and terminals in the region. U.S. Customs officials also conduct inspections.
Springer said there have been a few violations, such as foreign-flagged vessels carrying copies instead of originals of a required certificate stating they've passed international security inspections.
Lt. Charles Bright, a spokesman for the guard, said yesterday that he could not comment on specific violations.
"In general, with added security we feel we are addressing some items that weren't addressed before," he said. "From all facilities, we're getting good cooperation."
After inspectors found problems with the port's security firm, officials there immediately moved to replace it with New Jersey-based Securitas Security Services USA Inc., which provided security during the recent presidential inaugural ceremony in Washington.
Securitas Security Services has a one-year contract through November and a one-year renewal option, worth $1 million. The state Board of Public Works approved the request Feb. 2.
Darlene Frank, a spokeswoman for the port, said there was no disruption in security services and she knew of no other significant security lapses.
"I think we moved extremely swiftly," she said.
The port has received about $11 million in federal grants and another $3 million in state money for security since 2001. In addition to adding guards, the port plans to install automated entrance gates, fences with motion-detecting fiber optics and other security equipment, she said.