Dec. 9, 2005 Ferry boat passengers may have their suitcases, backpacks, purses or other luggage inspected before they board.
Kenrick Augustus, manager at the St. John-based Transportation Services, said Friday that ferry companies this week began randomly searching passenger's bags.
"It may be one in 10, one in five," Augustus said, speaking for all the ferry companies that use St. John facilities.
He said the new wrinkle in inter-island transportation comes from the U.S. Coast Guard. A message left for Lt. Chris Gagnon, who supervises Coast Guard operations on St. Thomas, was not returned. A subsequent call informed the Source that he had left for the day.
Augustus said that passengers will first pass through the security fence. Those that are selected for screening will have to put their luggage on a table to the right. He said passengers will be asked to open their bags for viewing.
Inspectors, Augustus said, won't rummage through the bags or strew the contents about, and they will wear gloves.
He said the inspectors are trained to look for weapons and explosives.
Augustus said he didn't foresee problems with things like pen knives, but the crew will hold machetes and other items that could be considered weapons. Items will be returned when the passenger gets off the ferry.
The ferry companies are fine-tuning their procedures to make it easier for the passengers, Augustus said, adding the instead of having passengers start through the security gate just minutes before the ferry is scheduled to depart, the process will begin earlier.
Ticket sellers will be at the window a half-hour in advance of the ferry's departure to expedite boarding. Acknowledging that having passengers stand in the sun or rain when boarding at the Charlotte Amalie waterfront was inconvenient, Augustus said he'll ask crews to have passengers board as early as possible.
Augustus said that all packages sent without being accompanied by a passenger will be screened in the presence of the person doing the sending.
Lisa Durgin, who manages vacation villas on St. John, said that while she supports the U.S. government's efforts in keeping the country safe, inspecting luggage at the ferry dock is more than necessary.
"The whole Homeland Security thing is out of control and non-beneficial, at least in terms of our locale," she said.
Going from St. John to St. Thomas on the ferry was just like going from New York to New Jersey, a trip that doesn't require such a level of scrutiny, she said.
Durgin also said tents to shelter the luggage and their owners should be installed.
"So it's not in sight of any Tom, Dick or Harry and to protect it from inclement weather," she said.
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