Port needs to be secure, says CEO

Bonnie Belec and Andrew Robinson
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Happy City St. John’s says project merits public consultation

The proposed fence for the St. John’s harbourfront.
— Image courtesy of the St. John’s Port Authority

The St. John’s Port Authority is not on the fence when it comes to building a security structure on the harbourfront — it either abides by security standards or it shuts down a $250-million industry, says its CEO.

“Since Sept. 11, 2001 there’s been a more restricted security regime in place, one we have always tried to maintain, but at the same time afford as much public access to the harbour as we can. That’s not always possible, and we’ve gone as far as we can with that,” said Sean Hanrahan, the authority’s president.

“The vessels that visit our port demand certain security and Transport Canada demands certain security levels, so we’ve got to meet a standard or we shut down the port of St. John’s,” he said Thursday in response to a news release by Happy City St. John’s, a non-profit organization which advocates for public dialogue on civic issues.

“Now shutting down the port of St. John’s, having vessel traffic go elsewhere, would mean the loss of a quarter of a billion dollars and the loss of close to 3,000 jobs,” Hanrahan said.

He said what the authority decided to do was meet the standard by having controlled access to 60 per cent of the wharf, leaving 40 per cent with public access, by building a fence along the harbour apron.

He said even in the controlled-access area, special events will be welcome, with security measures put in place.

Happy City suggests the city made a mistake in not holding a public consultation on the matter. The news release said the City of

St. John’s is due to hold another vote at Monday’s council meeting on the proposal.

“We’d like to see them defer the vote and then call a public meeting around (the fence) to explain the details to the people who are interested, and also ask what our thoughts are,” said Dave Lane, chairman of Happy City St. John’s, who spoke with The Telegram Thursday afternoon.

However, Mayor Dennis O’Keefe said there is no such vote happening on the matter, noting that council gave unanimous approval to the proposal for the fence in August.

“The decision has been made — end of story,” said the mayor. “There’s nothing coming to council on Monday.”

Hanrahan said the concerns raised by Happy City seem to be about engagement, but the authority met with the city three times since June, with the latest meeting being held Tuesday. City representatives gave their unanimous support for the project each time.

“We couldn’t discuss the matter with 120,000 people, so what we did was discuss it with their representatives and we did it on three separate occasions, and this is crucial, in my view, in terms of engagement. We didn’t do it once or twice, we did it three times. … If you read Happy City’s release it seems to say we allegedly hid under a rock, but that’s not the case.”

The fence will cost about $900,000, with the city’s portion being capped at $425,000. Hanrahan said if it costs any more than that the authority will pay the balance.

The fence will be erected on the waterfront on Harbour Drive near the parking garage over to the Royal Trust Building. The open-access area will be from the Keg Restaurant to the edge of Atlantic Place.

While Lane said the city has generally done a great job of “opening up” and engaging the public on development matters, a decision such as the one concerning the harbour fence requires “explicit engagement” from residents.

During the last two years, Lane said, Happy City St. John’s has consulted with many residents about their vision for the city and how they would like to see it grow.

“The harbour comes up a lot,” he said. “The harbourfront is an important part of our city.”

He said the decision to create a fence concerns a lot of residents, particularly given the fact public access to much of the harbour will be restricted as a result of its erection.

“We think that if the city engaged a bit more openly on this issue, they could make a better decision,” said Lane. “People really value having direct access to the water in that way. A lot of people will stroll down with their families or their children.”

Given the area is under the jurisdiction of the port authority, O’Keefe said, it could have elected to build whatever it wanted, but showed good faith in approaching the city on the matter.

“They could put whatever they wanted there, but being the good citizen that they are, they approached the city to tear down the dirty-looking chain-link fence that currently exists and put up a heritage-style colonial fence with viewing areas, and of course their intent was to enhance and beautify the downtown, which this fence will do.”

Hanrahan said residents have to realize there are two more wide-open publicly accessible spaces at Harbourside Park and the Terry Fox Monument site.

“So when you put those in the mix we’re about 50 per cent open and 50 per cent access controlled. So we think that’s prudent. The Marginal Wharf is a working harbour and this is not dissimilar from the airport, where you can go in and watch the planes through the viewing area, but you can’t walk on the tarmac. So that’s the parallel, in our view,” said Hanrahan.

O’Keefe said it is erroneous to suggest the new fence will deny people access to the harbour.

“For anybody to say that is totally incorrect and totally irresponsible,” said the mayor.

 

bbelec@thetelegram.com

arobinson@thetelegram.com

 

Organizations: Happy City, Port Authority, Transport Canada Royal Trust Building

Geographic location: Harbourside Park

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Recent comments

  • redrantingory
    December 08, 2012 - 08:56

    What is it with St John's? First it was the Ring Road? Protest that, don't need it. Then it was the Room? Protest that, to ugly. Then it was Hotels? Protest that to high? Then it's MF's? Protest that, to expensive. Then it's the Forits Building? Protest that, to high and to ugly. Nothing will ever get done here for sake of trying to please every last soul. Yes there needs to be consultation and scrutiny but this as gotten to be one big joke where every developement someone is opposed to it for some stupid reason or another. To high, to ugly, not in my back yard? We wonder why companies don't want to set up shop here and why jobs were and are scarce? Who in their right mind would want to try and do business in such an atmosphere? Only the die hard people who thinks it's worth it and thank God for them. Oh and seems most of the above projects have worked out for the best. We need to move into the 21st century but do it in a sustainable way. However we cannot please eveyone all of the time. Especially those who cannot see the bigger picture.

  • California Pete from NFLD
    December 07, 2012 - 13:21

    If that is a drawing of the proposed fence don't complain about it Get your head out of the Sand (Rocks) come and see what a real fence looks like at Long Beach or Los Angeles Harbor and the closes one can get to the harbor in Copenhagen is at the Little Mermade

  • seanoairborne
    December 07, 2012 - 12:42

    Geez!It's a fence people,not The Washington Monument!!This is the problem with many people in St'John's.If it were up to these whiners the city would be stuck in the 1920s forever..Don't build anything higher than 4 stories in the DT,we want to sit in our yards and watch the oil supply vessels sail in and out of our beautiful harbor,swaying to and fro in the warm ocean breezes.Forget about all the tax revenue and jobs that are created from the construction of a new office towers in the DT, that will pay off for years to come in annual tax revenues that will help plow the sidewalks and repair the pot holed streets that a lot of you whiners are equally upset about.You can't have it both ways,people!If you want your sidewalks plowed in the winter,your pot holed streets repaired in the summer and general infrastructure taken care of you have to move into the 21 st. century and PRONTO!!I imagine if it were up to a lot these--anti-anything that brings revenue into the city whiners--there would still be slop hoppers,Tank Lanes and open dump trucks picking up ash cans from the streets of the city! Get a grip,people.A lot of you sound like the stereotypical dumb Newf!

  • Luke
    December 07, 2012 - 10:06

    "Given the area is under the jurisdiction of the port authority, O’Keefe said, it could have elected to build whatever it wanted, but showed good faith in approaching the city on the matter" .... and asked for $450,000 of municipal money. “They could put whatever they wanted there, but being the good citizen that they are, they approached the city to tear down the dirty-looking chain-link fence that currently exists and put up a heritage-style colonial fence with viewing areas, and of course their intent was to enhance and beautify the downtown, which this fence will do.” So, Doc, are we to understand that the situation is thus: the Port Authority will put up a fence regardless. If they have to pay for it themselves, it will be cheap and ugly. BUT take heart! If we give them about half a million dollars, they'll make it beautiful!

  • Blair
    December 07, 2012 - 09:10

    I agree with the Port Authority that this area has to be fenced, not only are they bound by law to do it, they are truthful when they say shipping lines will not use the Port unless proper security is in place. As example, no fence- no criuse ships, so that would affect, taxis, tour buses, shops, fuel service, garbage service and the list goes on. No fence, the offshore vessels will not use the area so there will be no work for lonshoremen and women. Theses are just a few examples, but to think there are those in this city who say it should not be fenced, close down the Port we need a view,(the same view that is at the beautiful Harbourside Park ) The next time there is a ship working in this area go down and have a look at families walking along the Marginal Wharf in among the working fork lifts and over head canes loading tractor trailers, tripping over water and fuel lines, while workers have a full time job just watching out for unauthorized pedestrians. Has an accident ever happened, YES, not only that but sight seeing impaired drivers as well have been caught in the past. The fence is a smart move for the safety of all, however, as a result of all this work going on the Port Authority is making huge profits, they have a very healthy bank account. Being an agency of the Federal Government how did they manage to hoodwink the St. John's City Council to have the taxpayer's of the City pay for half the cost of a fence to secure Port, not City property.

  • George S.
    December 07, 2012 - 08:56

    St. John's Ciy Council and the Port Authority are doing the right thing by approving a security measure mandated by international standards. Perhaps "Happy City" could focus their efforts now inside-the-fence and work on residents treating each other with the same respect and joviality with which they bestow on visitors. They could start a campaign that stopping how we maligning each other, reducing dinner time gossip about such and such company filing for bankruptcy, or glowing in the news of a divorce. They could promote the idea that it is actually okay to wish a fellow Newfoundlander well or congratulate them on their success. A truly Happy City comprises more than a clean taxi driven by a guy with a funny hat and cutsie accent. Good work Port and City.

  • sc
    December 07, 2012 - 08:38

    This is just further proof of how backwards this city/province is. I've seen harbours in various major cities around the world and they are much more attractive and accessible to the public than this one is. Does anyone really think that terrorists are likely to launch an attack in St. John's? Sorry folks, this city just isn't that important. We keep hearing that our various levels of government want to encourage tourism. This new fence is certainly going to be a huge tourist attraction. Why not spend the money fixing up the decrepit downtown area or, hey, maybe fixing the infrastructure? If the Port Authority wants this fence, let it pay for it. According to the CBC's website, Hanrahan said it would pay the full cost if the city refused to chip in. So, let it pay for the thing. I don't see why my taxes should go to depriving the residents of St. John's/NL of access to the waterfront if they want to go there.

  • bob
    December 07, 2012 - 08:33

    Hanrahan says the feds will shut down the port. All of those jobs are in the offshore and the container yard, which are already fenced. Hanrahan quotes all this money, so why are we the tax payers subsiding the port authority for $450 thousand. When they have a ship that needs security, the temporary fence they have should surfice.

  • Liam
    December 07, 2012 - 08:29

    @ Robert - 'Our MUN attracts students from all over the world and they bring good and perhaps bad intentions.' Your xenophobia is showing. One can reasonably assume that the crime rate amongst these visitors is much less than the general population. Enhancing public access would increase security, not diminish it. The foundation of Western policing is formed by the submission of 'tips' about possible crimes by concerned citizens. Living in fear and erecting fences is not my cup of tea. The long term solution is to develop another bay. ie. Freshwater. It has to happen sometime.

  • Kanoley
    December 07, 2012 - 08:28

    The people that are complaining about this are being ignorant and ill informed. For 500 years this harbour has been the lifeblood of this city and its not because it was kept pretty for people to walk around on. It is a practical harbour that serves to bring goods and services to the people of this province. Does it make any sense to shut down the harbour so we can all go down there and look around smelling the stink. How many of these people will be complaining about how long it takes to get food and all the fancy electronics they order when it has to come by ferry to Port aux Basques then across the province by truck. How many of them have people in their families that work in oil and gas or have jobs that trickle down because of the strength of the industry. No jobs but it will be sure nice to be able to walk right close to the harbour. Get a clue before you start complaining people. Its an industrial port and always has been. Build the fence.

  • Not Up for Discussion
    December 07, 2012 - 08:16

    I remember Mayor O'Keefe talking about this 'fence' at the waterfront this summer. He said it was something required by the visiting cruise ships who demanded security. He wanted something more attractive rather than the temporary chin link fencing that they had to put up when these ships arrive. All that being said, there is a unique beauty to the harbourfront that everyone enjoys. Glad to hear it's only 'part' of the harbour. Just don't expect rural NL harbour fronts to follow suit.

  • bob
    December 07, 2012 - 08:12

    Hanrahan says the feds will shut down the port. All of those jobs are in the offshore and the container yard, which are already fenced. Hanrahan quotes all this money, so why are we the tax payers subsiding the port authority for $450 thousand. When they have a ship that needs security, the temporary fence they have should surfice.

  • Clyde
    December 07, 2012 - 08:06

    I don't have a problem with the fencing of the harbor as long as it is done in a tasteful manner and yes we need the security, and this is a sign of progress. What i don't understand is the fact that businesses have tried to move ahead with progress by increasing the sizes of the building across the street from where the proposed fence is supposed to be placed but were not allowed do to height restrictions and maintaining the look and beauty of the harbor landscape. If its good for the goose it should be good for the Gander

  • paul
    December 07, 2012 - 08:03

    Stick the Port Authority and their fence on the other side of the harbour!

  • Robert
    December 07, 2012 - 07:05

    If we forget our history we are bound to repeat it. It would seem that the world has known of St. John's for around 500 years. There is a "Signal Hill" and a "Chain Rock" because there have been those in our past who would do us harm. Surely our good visitors due to 9/11 know this as well. Our MUN attracts students from all over the world and they bring good and perhaps bad intentions. It is a global community in many ways and we are part of that community. It would be wonderful to live in bliss but it would be a blind one. It is sad but a level of security is needed........get on with it!!

  • John
    December 07, 2012 - 06:51

    This is awful news, they're going to be effectively shutting off the end of the harbour that faces the Narrows, one of the nicest spots in the province, why not develop down towards the end of Water Street, closer to the Battery, that would be an ideal place for cruise ships to port, and the citizens of the city could enjoy the public space. This is another sad example of the city caring more about money than about its people, they say there's no money to clear sidewalks in the winter, but there's almost a million dollars to build a fence. What does St. John's get for cruise ships in the run of a year, two or three, every time you turn around you hear about a cruise ship skipping St. Johns because they cant get through the Narrows due to weather. Pathetic.

  • NA
    December 07, 2012 - 06:47

    It is going to be a shame and sounds like the decision is already been made. Instead of improving public access and facilities around harbor front to create a lively urban area, they put up a fence. Say goodbye to your harbor front St. John's. It all starts with promises to keep a certain portion of it for public access. It will then turn into we need more for the increased demand for the port and it is all gone.

  • Ken Collis
    December 07, 2012 - 06:44

    No problem, I just won't go downtown anymore. The walk was always the best part of downtown shopping and dining. Park at one end, walk the harbour, and shop my way back to my vehicle.

  • Percy
    December 07, 2012 - 06:40

    I support the Federal Government on this new security fence for the Harbour Front, and limited access to the public. It is too late when something happens, then you would hear this one, and that one of the general public say, why wasn't there more security. You can't cry wolf when it is too late. What is there NOT to see that you can't see from the inside street, on the sidewalk, on the Harbour front? Do you want to see the Port Of St.John's closed permanently, with the lost of $250 million dollar revenue? Get use to it. Can you go to the airport and on the tamarack, and watch planes come in? Get a life! It's like a small elite group that want to prevent development in the downtown area. They think when they buy a house, they are guaranteed a view by the city. What kind of irrational thinking is that? It is time for some people to use their GOD given common sense, and face reality, and NOT live in a world of FANTASY. Now, go and smell some flowers somewhere, and enjoy your day.

  • anon
    December 07, 2012 - 06:36

    Really People. Who are these people that are complaining about this. Do the use the harbour so much for swimming, fishing walking on "the beach" and taking in the wonderful smell. Go down there on a sunny summer day are there a lot of people hanging out by the harbour. Yes I agree, It is a important part of out culture, history, blah blah blah. So is the importance of harbours in boston, new york, and various other places is in the world. Its not 1920 anymore, security is important and so is the $250 million dollars and the 3000 jobs. Grab a clue public inquires, referendums and various other public meetings are just a waste of time and money.

  • Don Lester
    December 07, 2012 - 06:32

    Anyone in disagreement with the construction of the fence at the port should go to the internet and google the "International Ship & Port Facility Code. " This will explain why the Port of St. John's has no choice but to construct this security fence.