Port too late for ISPS

LONDON (Reuters) – The Greek port of Piraeus, a key international trading hub, will be one of Europe’s highest-profile facilities to miss a deadline for complying with global sea anti-terror rules due to enter into force tomorrow, Lloyd’s List reported yesterday. The paper reported that a special committee only began this week examining offers from consultants to prepare Greece’s biggest port to meet the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. The new stringent international security measures are mandatory for all ships and ports engaged in international trade, and nations have been working since their adoption by the United Nations in December 2002 to ensure they comply. «Unfortunately we were going to be listed as a ‘contaminated’ port,» Stavros Hatzakos, head of the port’s European Union bureau, closely involved with port security, told the newspaper. Most major European mega-ports are already compliant with the code, as are those of major OECD countries. Though the port would miss the deadline, officials told the paper that its failure did not truly reflect the enormous security preparations going on ahead of the Athens Olympic Games in August. Port sources said a tangle between Olympic security and planning and the more bureaucratic elements of ISPS introduction was largely to blame for the slippage. Officials had hoped the blueprint for protecting the port during the Games could be used as the main thrust for ISPS compliance. Military and coast guard vessels, helicopters circling overhead, physical barriers and a panoply of electronic surveillance devices including infrared cameras will all be part of the port’s security blanket for the Games. «It is a strange situation,» Hatzakos told the paper. He said the award of the consultancy contract was likely to take a few weeks at the most. «There is no question that the central harbor (for passenger ships) and most of the commercial port area, including the most sensitive areas such as the container terminal, are secure,» he said.