Ferry passengers take security exercise in stride

Transportation Security Administration officers conduct random checks at the Oak Bluffs ferry terminal Thursday. — Photo by Steve Myrick

The Division of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration, plus the Steamship Authority, local police, and emergency management personnel conducted security checks and searches at the Oak Bluffs ferry terminal Thursday morning, September 27.

The exercise was part of the Steamship Authority’s (SSA) security procedures regimen. The boatline invited the federal security team to conduct the searches, as part of the Authority’s ongoing security planning. It was not a response to any increased security threat, according to SSA officials.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers searched bags chosen at random, tested for explosives, and asked passengers for photo identification. The scrutiny was similar to security at airports, though not as restrictive.

A TSA spokesman said the exercise will help security officials be prepared, if a security threat is uncovered.

“We’ve conducted these types of exercises for a number of years, across all modes of transportation, including ferry operations,” said Ann Davis, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration. “They are typically unannounced. If intelligence indicated a need for us to assist ferry operators with enhanced security, we would already have the protocols in place. You want to already have a working relationship with the Steamship Authority, with Oak Bluffs police.”

“In any maritime facility regulated by the Coast Guard, we are required to have a security plan,” Larry Ferreira, director of security for the SSA. “We have to have a plan, and we have to exercise the plan.”

Though a bit surprised, most SSA customers took the unusual security procedures in stride.

“I don’t mind at all,” Marie St. Pierre said, after she produced a photo ID and boarded the ferry to return to her house in Assonet. “With the acts of terrorism going on, I’d rather be safe than sorry.”