Port of Miami names new security chief

Feb. 1--In the wake of resignations from two top security officials, the Port of Miami has named Capt. Harvey Honig of the Miami-Dade Police Seaport Unit to serve as assistant director for safety and security.

The appointment comes just before a critical Florida Department of Law Enforcement security audit to bring the port into compliance with state requirements.

James Maes, the port's former assistant director for safety and security, and Denise Minakowski, chief of safety and security compliance, each resigned in mid-January. Maes' last day was Thursday. Minakowski's last day is Friday. Both had worked at the port just over a year.

"It is their professional decision," Port Director Bill Johnson said following the resignations. "They made the decision to do something different with their careers professionally and that happens, that is life."

Maes, 49, who retired from the Coast Guard as captain of the port and federal maritime security coordinator before joining the Port of Miami in November 2006, said he plans to do security consulting.

"I'm leaving because I have had some firms call me and ask me to join their company," he said.

Minakowski is joining Royal Caribbean Cruises.

Honig, who has more than 28 years of experience with the Miami-Dade Police Department, was assigned to the Port of Miami to oversee MDPD's public safety operations last June.

For at least a year, the Port of Miami has been in noncompliance with FDLE requirements, though it is in compliance with federal Coast Guard rules. Among the issues: access control, fencing and lighting.

During the past year, the port has made security strides, including training officers, investing in personal protective equipment for officers, upgrading facilities and opening a new main gate, Maes said.

"We've had some very significant security accomplishments," he said. "We have come a very substantial long way with security."

Honig, who begins Friday, takes on his new role at the start of a critical FDLE safety compliance inspection from a team from Tallahassee. More involved than an annual inspection, it will begin next week and is expected to last two to 10 days. FDLE will then return in April to do a final inspection, he said.

"There are a lot of challenges there but I am very proud of the port team," said Honig, 51. "We have come a long way with the compliance program, and we are going to be reinspected for a final inspection for FDLE, and I am very confident we will be in substantial compliance."