US Coast Guard chief discusses security with gov’t, shipowners

Greece and the United States face «common threats» from international terrorism and must work closely together to ensure the maritime safety of the two nations, the chief of the US Coast Guard said yesterday. «We have common threats and common challenges and we need to work together cooperatively on issues involving security of our vessels, our waterfronts and our ports,» said Admiral Thomas H. Collins. Collins, who is in Greece on a three-day visit with his deputy, Rear Admiral Paul Pluta, met in Piraeus with Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis and Greek Coast Guard chief Vice Admiral Christos Delimichalis. Later, he visited the offices of the Union of Greek Shipowners (EEE) and met with President Yiannis Lyras and Vice President Nikos Efthymiou. «We discussed matters of cooperation between the two sides» such as «countering illegal immigration and combating terrorism at ports and on ships,» Anomeritis said. He added that both are priorities during Greece’s presidency of the European Union and of his own ministry, which monitors the Greek-owned merchant fleet – one of the largest in the world. There have been concerns that ships used in attempts to smuggle thousands of illegal immigrants to EU countries such as Greece could be also be used to ferry Al Qaeda terrorists. Collins said Greece and the United States are exploring ways they can cooperate in the inspection of ships suspected of carrying Al Qaeda terrorists. «We discussed the general terms and conditions of the new international security protocol» recently adopted by the International Maritime Organization in London on December 13 by 108 countries, Collins said. «We agreed on ways to enhance the security of our shipping and our ports.» Security planning for the 2004 Athens Olympics was also discussed. Collins and the shipowners focused on international security issues. A statement released by EEE said the two sides agreed completely on the issues, including US initiatives toward security enhancement. The two sides talked about the repercussions from the sinking of the tanker Prestige off the coast of Spain and agreed that the European Union should refrain from taking unilateral measures which «undermine the prestige of the IMO.» This is the line the Greek government has adopted, as well. «If we are to achieve positive results in matters of maritime safety, there is no other way than following the established line of bringing these matters into the IMO fold,» Anomeritis told reporters. «Greece will defend the IMO’s prestige but will also set (time) limits for taking decisions,» he added. (AP, Kathimerini)

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