Local News

Coast Guard Patrols On High Alert At Wilmington Port

Posted May 22, 2003

— One of the reasons for the hightened terror alert across the United States is concern about the safety of the U.S. coastline --- particularly ports and waterways.

That's one of the first places security was increased.

Wednesday was a pretty day to be on the Cape Fear River. The Coast Guard wants to make sure things don't turn ugly. So, with security alert at high, the Coast Guard has shifted into high gear.

"We're just looking for anything out of the ordinary," said PO2 Michael Smith of the U.S. Coast Guard. "People being in boats where they're not supposed to be, up around ships. Anything that looks odd, taking pictures, stuff like that."

In the wake of 9/11, additional security measures came on board -- checking crew and cargo on every vessel heading to port, for example. In January, security increased even more because the port became a shipping site for military equipment.

Now, the orange alert has kicked things up another notch. There are more Coast Guard boats and planes on patrol.

"I think you have take seriously any threat that you get," said Cdr. Chris May of the Wilmington Marine Safety Office. "You're dealing with people who are willing to give their own life for their cause."

The Wilmington port also made permanent changes after the 9/11 attacks. This new terror alert has port police watching more closely. There are more frequent inspections at the gate. Everyone is escorted. Leaders say world events have them unloading everything they've got.

There have been no specific threats to North Carolina's ports or waterways. All the security measures come at the recommendation of the Federal government.

"Iraq and Morocco, the fact that we're leading up to Memorial Day holiday, our troops coming home -- all of those things playing together concern us a whole lot," said Tom Eager of the Wilmington Port Authority.


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