August 2, 2011 Facebook TwitterMore...

Security screeners are at work at the ferry docks


Those yellow-shirted folks at the ferry docks asking for your identification are doing the job the Coast Guard requires them to do—security screening of a certain percentage of cars using the ferry.

If it seems like they just appeared last summer, maybe it’s because they became more visible.

But Lucy Wallace, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Transportation Ferry Division, said they are ferry personnel and they’ve been there all along, according to requirements by the U.S. Coast Guard, which controls the nation’s waterways. 

It’s just that last summer, the Ferry Division put the screening folks in yellow shirts and they also increased the number of cars they screen. 

By screening, they may ask motorists for their license, ask a few questions, and take down license plate numbers.

A minimum of five percent of all traffic onto the ferry has to be screened, Wallace said. That number increases according to the threat level designated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Commander Steve McGee, chief of the Prevention Department for the U.S. Coast Guard, explained that screening regulations are contained in the Maritime Transportation Security Act enacted by the federal government under the Department of Homeland Security after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Ferries are grouped in with oil transfer facilities and chemical facilities.

Each facility has to come up with a security plan, he said, that has to be approved by the Coast Guard.

“There are many options as to how they can comply,” McGee said. “The goal is to facilitate commerce but keep us safe.”

In addition, any facility subject to these regulations has to do periodic readiness drills, such as the one conducted at the Hatteras Ferry Dock Wednesday, July 20, by personnel from the Dare County Sheriff’s Office, the Ferry Division, and the Raleigh-Durham Airport Office of DHS.

These kinds of drills also keep ferry personnel ready to respond to bomb threats, such as the one that occurred on Thursday, July 28, at the Cedar Island Ferry Dock around 11 a.m.

McGee said the threat turned out to be a hoax, and the dock was deemed safe after a couple of hours.

A loaded ferry from Ocracoke was delayed in landing while the personnel reacted to the threat, McGee said.

“The ferry system did what they were supposed to do as to their plan,” he noted. “They did a good job.”

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