June 30, 2004 – An imposing cyclone fence fringed on the sides with three strands of barbed wire has met hundreds of commuters traveling between Red Hook and Cruz Bay this week. A similar fence, less obvious because of its positioning near the sheltered seating area, has sprung up at the Loredon Boynes Ferry Dock in Cruz Bay.
Both are the result of new rules being implemented nationwide under the federal Homeland Security Act. Darlan Brin, Port Authority executive director, said fences went up a few days ago at all port facilities under VIPA jurisdiction.
Admitting they are ugly, Brin promised on Wednesday that VIPA will do something about that soon.
"We intend to change those to ornamental devices instead of the cyclone fence," he said. "But we had to get them in place quickly, so we used that fence. But we intend to make them more aesthetically pleasing in the future — in the near future."
Travelers passing through the gate of the Red Hook fence also are being greeted by uniformed security guards with metal detectors.
Uniformed guards are riding the ferries at night.
The ferries' public address systems carry a new announcement with a man's voice asking for passengers' silence as he describes the safety devices on board for use in the event of an emergency.
A sign on the vessels advises passengers that in boarding a boat they signal their willingness to comply with any search that may be conducted on board.
New Homeland Security rules governing ports and harbors go into effect July 1 — Thursday. From now on, the fences are a fact of life, Brin said. "We don't like it, but at the same time we have to comply," he said. "That's done to keep non-ticketed passengers, non-I.D.'d personnel from entering onto the dock."
The fences appear to have had an intimidating effect on some people who regularly commute between St. Thomas and St. John. On Wednesday, the streams of day workers arriving on the ferries around 6:30 a.m. was at about half the normal flow. There was speculation that some regular riders who failed to appear were concerned about having to present identification in order to pass through the security points.
Brin said on Wednesday that identification is only for vessel operators and persons working on the various boats entering and leaving V.I. ports.
Persons traveling by barge do not have to pass a checkpoint to drive their vehicles onto and off of those vessels. However, Brin said, protocols are being set up for drivers arriving on barges originating from foreign ports to clear security as they enter the territory.
Do the new rules mean an end to evening outings fishing off the ferry docks? Maybe not, Brin said, but those enjoying recreational fishing will have to leave the docks as vessels arrive and depart.
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