PORT MANATEE -- A new security tariff measure approved Thursday will put all Port Manatee security operations under the direction of the port's in-house security department for the first time.
Nearly three months after several port tenants objected to a plan to unify a patchwork of private and port-run security operations, members of the Manatee County Port Authority voted unanimously to put all security operations under one plan.
Proposed in late August, the plan includes a new set of fees to pay for additional guard services, infrastructure and technology needed to monitor cargos and port and tenant facilities. It also centralizes security planning. Previously, eight tenant security plans interfaced with the port's overall plan. The Coast Guard is responsible for approving and monitoring any security plans at Florida's ports.
The port authority had previously deferred voting on the approval of the tariff and the unified security strategy when some tenants objected to the measure. Coast Guard officials recommended that the port do away with individual security plans its tenants use and move to a single plan administered by the port.
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David St. Pierre, the port's security director, said the port has been meeting Coast Guard-mandated security requirements. However, he recommended going to a single security plan to avoid duplication of security services and to make certain that all areas of the port are always meeting Coast Guard requirements.
Although some tenants and one independent security provider at the port initially labeled the security tariff measure as potentially intrusive and expensive, St. Pierre said the plan will likely save tenants money.
"I think in the long run it will because they used to, previous to this plan, maintain their own signage, equipment and trained staff to do that," he said.
The fees will be assessed to ships in port and as a surcharge on port permitting and licensing fees.
Carlos Buqueras, the port's executive director, said port staff met with tenants over the past few months to present the security measure in detail.
"It was an education process," he said. "I think there is a greater awareness of benefits."
The unified security plan takes effect immediately. Now, the port's cadre of 40 part-time and full-time security officers is responsible for all security operations on port property, except where tenants have fully fenced facilities. There, Buqueras said, tenants can use their own security forces. But any such force will still be integrated into the port's overall security strategy.
Security has been a top concern at the port since Sept. 11, 2001. Prior to the new tariff plan, port personnel were already responsible for or participated in up to 80 percent of security operations on the port's 1,000-acre property.
Security measures implemented in the past 14 years include the construction of a perimeter fence, establishing access control checkpoints at the port's entrances and the development of a security guard training program. St. Pierre said he does not anticipate a need to hire more security guards in the foreseeable future.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027 or on Twitter@MattAtBradenton.