Some local ports are still to comply with the international security code implemented in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and since all private and public facilities have to be compliant, Guyana could face blacklisting.
The Shipping Association of Guyana (SAG) recently held a seminar for port operators aimed at reinforcing the need for continued observance and correction of all port and wharf protection systems and procedures in keeping with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.
The meeting stemmed from the findings and recommendations, made by the US Coast Guard during a 2013 visit to inspect the local facilities ahead of the issuance of the 2014-2019 Compliance Certificate. The team identified the absence of the “unrelenting” execution of Port Security requirements at some wharf facilities as a major shortcoming, the Shipping Association said in a press release. The US Coast Guard is the designated authority for enforcement of the ISPS Code.
Every public and privately held maritime facility must be compliant before Guyana could achieve certification. The Code requires, among other things that security personnel are always present, that fences and partitions are constructed to specific heights and that security cameras are always functional. The US team also found that while the Port Facility Security Plans at most local wharf facilities were in place, they were treated as contingencies rather than a way of life.
This, they said, was a recurring theme throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.
Since then, the release said that the Shipping Association had taken a proactive approach to sector sensitization and, in collaboration with the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) hosted a seminar to bolster compliance with international port security.
Guyana has been a signatory to the International Maritime Conventions, specifically the Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) Convention for more than a decade. After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US World Trade Centre, the International Maritime Organisation amended the SOLAS in order to strengthen maritime safety. The resulting SOLAS Chapter 74 Amendment XI became the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code which every nation traversing the seas and oceans of the world is required to sign on to.
As such, every wharf and maritime facility in Port Georgetown, Berbice and Essequibo is required to put in place specific measures to guard against any type of maritime terrorist activity.
From the commencement of the ISPS Code in 2004, the local shipping association has been working with the MARAD to ensure that local ports remain ISPS compliant, the release said.
Association Chairman Desmond Sears said there is need for staff at all levels of wharf operations to ensure that everyone develops awareness of the Code and its requirements, bearing in mind the negative national economic consequences that could result from non-compliance.
He said that at those facilities where the “system of issuing daily reminders to Guards” was implemented, the supervisors found that it engendered serious enquiries and consequent discussions that led to visible improvements.
“There are considerable challenges to successful implementation of the ISPS Code, but non-compliance could result in a USCG [US Coast Guard] Advisory which may black-list a Port,” he said. “Implementation of this Code is no mean task as both time and money must be expended by both Government and Terminal Owners/Operators in order to sustain Guyana’s compliance”, he said.
Sears appreciated MARAD’s immediate agreement to contribute their expertise to the seminar and applauded their consistent pursuit of long-term goals that would ensure the safety and well-being of the nation.
According to the press statement, representatives from the Guyana National Shipping Corporation, the Guyana Oil Company, Courtney Benn Con-tracting Services, Benjamin’s Marine and Salvaging Company, Demerara Shipping, Regal Shipping, Bosai Minerals, Guyana National Industrial Company, John Fernandes Ltd, the Guyana Power and Light and other operators of cargo/freight terminals, wharves and customs brokerages attended the seminar.