Port security weaknesses could affect Guyana’s international maritime standing

Security-related anomalies at port facilities in Guyana could, conceivably, negatively affect the country’s international maritime standing and raise questions about its compliance with International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) protocols and practices, a local shipping industry source has told Stabroek Business.

The remark was made after this newspaper sought a comment on observations made by the United States Coastguard last year and alluded to in a media release issued by the Guyana Shipping Association (GSA) earlier this week regarding anomalies in the Guyana port security regime.

The US Coastguard, according to the GSA release, the designated authority for enforcement of the ISPS Code, visited Guyana to inspect its facilities ahead of the issuance of the 2014 – 2019 Compliance Certificate and noted the absence of “unrelenting execution of port security requirements at some wharf facilities” in Guyana.

Issues of port security in Guyana came into sharp focus during a February 18 stakeholder seminar, which examined a range of issues relating to the extent of Guyana’s compliance with the international port security code of practice.

The GSA release states that the US Coastguard “also found that port facility security plans at most wharf facilities in Guyana were in place but were being treated as contingencies rather than a way of life.”

The shipping industry source told Stabroek Business that the observation by the USCG was intended to make the point that while security personnel were in place at local wharves, the routines and protocols associated with checks to ascertain the security status of wharves were not routinely followed. The release said that shortcomings of this nature were “a recurring theme throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.”

The GSA release cited adherence to international maritime conventions as “a significant indicator of the health of a nation’s maritime sector.”

Guyana is a signatory to the ISPS Code under which every wharf and maritime facility in the country must be compliant if Guyana is to secure certification.  The GSA release says that, among other things, the code requires “that security personnel are always present, that fences and partitions are constructed at specific heights, and that security cameras are always functional.” The industry source conceded that there are instances in which smaller facilities are not compliant “to the fullest extent” but that international inspection procedures take account of the high costs associated with full compliance in poorer countries.

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