Fast boat to boost security of port

Vessel can handle wide variety of tasks 
Wednesday, August 03, 2005 
By Allen Powell II
River Parishes bureau 

Today's dedication of a new state-of-the-art security vessel at the Port of
South Louisiana marks another step in the port's multimillion-dollar plan to
revamp security. 

The port will officially dedicate the 49-foot, $850,000 Accardo at a 9:30
a.m. ceremony at the Globalplex Intermodal Terminal in Reserve. The vessel,
which can reach speeds in excess of 30 knots, about 34 mph, was paid for
with a combination of federal and port money. Although the Accardo, named in
honor of the port's former executive director, Joe Accardo, will be
officially dedicated today, the port has been using it for patrols since
July 21. 


Port Operations Director Mitch Smith said the new vessel will join two other
ships in maintaining security and safety along the 52-mile stretch of the
Mississippi River that includes St. John the Baptist, St. Charles and St.
James parishes. The Port of South Louisiana is the largest tonnage port in
the nation, handling about 250 million tons of cargo annually. 

The port owns an 80-foot fire boat and a 40-foot multipurpose vessel, but
both ships are much older and less capable on security patrols than the new
vessel, Smith said. The Accardo will be in operation on a 24-hour basis, and
crew members will conduct periodic patrols of the river. 

The vessel, specially built for the port by an Arkansas company, will be
used primarily for patrols by port employees, but it can also handle search
and rescue missions, hazardous material missions and several other duties,
Smith said. The Accardo is capable of carrying armaments, although Smith
said it will not typically be armed. The Accardo will also be available for
use by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, he said. 

"This definitely enhances our ability to provide security," said Smith, who
added that port officials would eventually like to purchase two more vessels
similar to the Accardo. "We are constantly searching for ways to improve
security in the port and the maritime industry." 

Smith said the new vessel is part of about $10 million worth of security
improvements recommended for the port by a private firm as part of a
risk/vulnerability assessment from 2002 to 2003. That assessment, part of a
federal mandate, recommended upgrades to the port's surveillance equipment,
storage facilities and security vessels, among other things, Smith said. 

But Smith said the port lacks the money to complete most of the changes and
is almost totally dependent on federal money to make improvements. Smith
noted that the marine operations division of the port has a budget of about
$1 million. Unfortunately, federal money for projects has not kept pace with
federal requirements, he said. 

"The individual ports are not able to fund the mandated needs of port
security," Smith said. 

. . . . . . . 

Allen Powell II can be reached at [EMAIL PROTECTED] or (985)

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