“A 60-year old driver for my company was pulled from his truck handcuffed and made to stand in the August sun for a violation that was not even posted ” Peter E. Gill said.
Gill is owner and general manager of Kwik Space Inc. a freight forwarding and trucking company.
“In typical Guam fashion the Coast Guard is mandating certain rules on how the port should be run ” Gill said “but the Guam guys sit around until the deadline comes and goes and all of a sudden on Aug. 20 someone lights a fire and they go out and arrest people.”
Trucking company representatives who interact daily with the Port of Guam told the Journal interpretations of new security rules have caused ongoing problems since July.
They said selective enforcement is costing tens of thousands of dollars a day which will inevitably be passed on to consumers.
Capt. Dale M. Rausch commander of the U.S. Coast Guard is the U.S. maritime security coordinator for Guam and captain of the Port of Guam. He said slowdowns could be minimized at the port container yard. “If the freight forwarders have a better handle on packaging containers and the shippers have more accurate manifests then commerce should flow more smoothly through the port.”
Rausch gave the port high marks for being one of the first in the nation to have its security plans approved. Port of Guam security plans were approved in December 2003 and in place by the mandated July 1 deadline of the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002.
Gill told the Journal he is considering filing a lawsuit against the port and its board of directors for “mishandling an employee who was unlawfully detained.”
He said port police policy is constantly changing — without information being disseminated to companies like his whose job it is to transfer containers from the port for delivery to customers.
Michael P. Henderson port communications and marketing administrator said he has no knowledge of the incident but thought the Kwik Space employee was briefly detained. “If there had been an arrest I would have known about it ” he told the Journal. “This is how things get blown out of proportion.”
Vivian B. Angoco office manager and accountant for Angoco Trucking Inc. said inconsistencies in port security policy are costing her company hundreds if not thousands of dollars an hour because of problems implementing the security plan.
“It seems that the port is playing security measures by ear and inconsistencies are costing a lot in terms of money and wasted manpower time ” she said. “ They don’t have the rules in standard operating procedure down pat so we are uninformed. If we were kept informed of changes — or even a standardized SOP — our business would be smoother.”
Trucking companies meet weekly with Port Authority of Guam management to discuss problems but Angoco and Gill said nothing is being done.
“Week after week it is the same old thing. We talk and talk but nothing happens Angoco said. “Freight is being held up and time is money in this business — we just want a level and fair playing field.”
An issue that has been festering between truckers and port management is newly introduced red lines painted on Sept. 20 at the entrance to all gates leading into the container yard. Since then truckers have been asking if the lines were coordinated with the U.S. Coast Guard which has regulatory enforcement over the port. No one could tell the Journal exactly what the red lines mean.
Minutes from the Nov.22 port meeting show that John B. Santos port terminal security manager was still trying to get clarification of what the “red-line policy” means for truckers.
“The red-line issue is just one example of miscommunications between port management and truckers ” Gill said. “One day my employees are told one thing and each week at the meetings there is no set-in-stone policy so we still are waiting and waiting is money.”
Rausch said he understood security measures might have an economic impact on businesses that deal with the port.
“I imagine there have been substantial expenses for the peripheral businesses like the truckers to operate because everything is tighter now. No longer can someone drive-up grab a container and leave. Checks and balances is a part of doing business in this new threat environment ” he said. “Our role has been to be the honest broker that keeps the peace when there are conflicts and while there have been a few minor incidents I personally believe everyone is working cooperatively together for the greater good.”
The incidents Rausch referred to are Transportation Security Incidents. He said there have been four in the last three months.
A TSI is regarded as a possible terrorist attack — a situation that might cause damage to life or vital infrastructure.
“When a TSI has occurred steps are taken by port officials to call us first and then the National Coast Guard Response Center informing us of the incident. Fortunately all have been false alarms and the port and the port police have handled these perfectly ” he said.
But each time an incident occurs the port is immediately and suddenly shut down and all movement of goods stopped.
Angoco said for every hour of delay in picking up containers the company loses as much as $600 to $1 000 an hour — ultimately passed on to the end-user. “The amount of money lost during a shutdown depends on how many trucks are on the road. We are seeing a 20% increase in business each month so we hate to see any closure ” Angoco said.
Restrictions were unavoidable Gill said. “We have to live with these security requirements and we all accept that but the intrinsic problem remains. What are the rules and can they be given in a written and promulgated form so that everyone is working from the same page?”
Rausch said Guam’s port is unique because of all the activities that take place within Apra Harbor.
“There are recreational activities like Jet Skis and scuba diving and snorkel operations that are happening in the harbor and near the Glass Breakwater while on the other side the U.S. Navy has ships and submarines moored. At the same time the commercial port is off-loading containers from ships while vital gas and oil is being pumped so it’s a balance that has to be maintained while operating in this new threat environment.”
The Port Authority of Guam turned away a Trans Pacific vessel on July 1. The vessel sat at anchor outside the harbor for two days while security officers were flown to the ship from Singapore trained the crew in security regulations in order to comply with the Maritime Transportation Security Act.
Rausch said while there might be problems now he believed in five years the new way of doing business at the port —which he said required everyone to be more aware — would benefit the community. “Good operators will emerge pilferage will be substantially decreased and in the end the consumer will reap benefits.” MBJ