Ferries could face security checks

CLEVELAND (AP) - Boat operators on Lake Erie are objecting to plans to make ferry passengers subject to security inspections.
People riding ferries to places like Kelleys Island or
Put-in-Bay could have to pass through a metal detector and have their bags inspected.
The proposed changes stem from the Maritime Transportation
Security Act of 2002. They would be implemented no sooner than the 2004 boating season.
Boat operators say that just because a boat is built to carry 150 or more passengers does not automatically make it a security threat.
Commander Dave Scott, chief of port security at U.S. Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, said that Lake Erie island ferries are different from Florida cruise ships or a vessel near a military base. He said the regulations will reflect that.
"We absolutely agree that one size does not fit all," Scott
Other proposed security measures include arming crew members or having armed security on board, prohibiting licensed handguns and hunting rifles and searching vehicles.
Bill Market, president of Miller Boat Line, which transports people and cars between Catawba Island and South Bass and Middle Bass islands in Lake Erie, said the ferries transport about 2,500 people on a summer weekend day.
He figures he would have to increase ticket prices to hire as many as 10 security people to maintain the schedule if passengers had to be screened.
"And that doesn't count cars, semis and delivery trucks,"
Market said.
Edmund Welch, legislative director of the Passenger Vessel
Association of Arlington, Va., said ferry boats and other large vessels should not be targeted, especially given that bombings such as that of the USS Cole involved a small speedboat.
"It's not impossible for a ferry boat to be used as a weapon, but to us it's somewhat of a stretch," Welch said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)