Port of Baltimore Replaces Security Company after Operations Review

BALTIMORE (AP) - The security company at the Port of Baltimore has been changed after the U.S. Coast Guard found officers were sleeping on the job, abandoning their posts and violating federal security regulations, according to a memo sent to port administrator James J. White.

The memo requested an emergency contract to replace the security officers and the state hired a new company "by the fastest means possible" in October to secure the city's port, which includes five marine terminals and Baltimore's World Trade Center.

"On numerous occasions, the contractor's employees have failed to properly cover posts, vacated posts without being relieved and have been found sleeping at posts," stated the memo, dated Sept. 24, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. "Although the contractor has been made aware of these deficiencies, little, if any, corrective action has been taken."

Lax security guards also caused the port to violate the federally mandated port security plan, which calls for controlled access to entry points, the memo said.

The company which lost the contract is New Jersey-based Internal Intelligence Services, which guarded the port from March 2003 through October 2004. The company had nearly two years left on its three-year, $1.5 million contract.

The company was replaced Oct. 25 by Securitas Security Services, which was awarded a one-year, $1 million contract, which has a one-year renewal option. The state Board of Public Works reviewed the agreement early this month.

James Pettit, communications director for the Governor's Office of Homeland Security, said state officials moved quickly once the problem was discovered.

"They found out that there was a problem and initiated an emergency procurement," Pettit said. "They moved fast."

Delegate Brian K. McHale (D-Baltimore), a steamship clerk who has worked at the port for 32 years, said it was widely suspected among workers that there were problems with security.

"Those folks never seemed, how should I say it, very effective," he said. "My assumption was that they were hired to fit into a budget, and we got what we paid for."

McHale said that officers are needed not only for homeland security but also to guard the goods and materials that move daily through the port.

Maryland Deputy Transportation Secretary James F. Ports Jr. said the port administration recognized the seriousness of the problem immediately but had to respond deliberately.

Ports said the old contract could not be canceled until a new one was in place, and port officials had to be discrete in order not to disclose potential security weaknesses.