Transport Canada ducks fence issue

Bonnie Belec
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Wouldn’t respond to questions about conflicting statements

St. John’s Port Authority CEO Sean Hanrahan finds himself between a fence and a hard place over a decision to erect a security fence along part of the St. John’s waterfront. Hanrahan says he’s getting mixed messages from Transport Canada, the regulating authority, on security requirements for the port.
— Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Sean Hanrahan sounds exasperated about plans for the

St. John’s harbourfront security fence and Transport Canada’s recent statements.

Not only has the St. John’s Port Authority been dealing with backlash from people who oppose the construction of a fence along the harbourfront, as well as two city councillors calling for public consultations on it, it now has to contend with Transport Canada’s people making conflicting statements.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Hanrahan, the CEO of the port authority.

“I  think Transport Canada has an obligation to clarify the whole thing in terms of their messaging.”

Hanrahan made several phone calls Friday to tell them to get their story straight, but as of The Tele­gram’s deadline Friday he hadn’t spoken to anyone.

The Telegram was also unsuccessful in attempts to speak to Transport Canada officials.

A Transport Canada spokes­man issued a statement Thursday to CBC saying the federal department didn’t tell the port authority to erect a better security fence.

Steve Bone laid out the federal agency’s position in the emailed statement: “Transport Canada is satisfied with the Port of St. John’s current security plan and did not instruct the port operator to erect new fencing. Any amendments or changes to a security plan must be submitted to Transport Canada for review and approval.”

It also said Transport Canada “does not instruct port operators to erect fences or other types of barriers, but many port facilities chose this method of restriction,” and, “It is up to the port facilities to determine how they will restrict access.”

“I can’t explain it,” said Hanrahan. “It contradicts the letters from Transport Canada. Mr. Bone says Transport Canada is satisfied and the letters I sent you say they aren’t.”

Hanrahan sent The Telegram a letter from Transport Canada concerning the marine facility security plan review for St. John’s.

It says: “Transport Canada has completed a new review of your marine facility security plan and noted that it does not meet the requirements of the Marine Transportation Security Regulations (MTSR).

“Additionally, and as discussed with you during our meetings on Nov. 20-21, you are required to establish a restricted area for all land spaces adjacent to vessels interfacing with your marine facility.”

The restricted area is meant to “prevent or deter unauthorized access, protect vessels interfacing with the marine facility and protect ships stores from tampering.”

In another document, Transport Canada states, “The temporary fencing in place along piers 8, 9 10 and 11 form a security concern, as observed during this assessment, due to their temporary construction and temporary nature.”

A letter from the agency dated Dec. 10 says the authority has 60 days to make the appropriate amendments to its security plan and submit them for approval.

When contacted by The Telegram, Bone said he would issue a statement on behalf of Transport Canada by 4 p.m. As of The Telegram’s deadline no statement had been issued.

Hanrahan said the port authority has been told over and over again by Transport Canada that it would have to increase security as the port got busier.

“For many years in our security assessment audits we do every year, it always comes up — (Transport Canada says) ‘as you get busier and attract more (international shipping) you’re going to have to make your facilities up to scratch, and that means the temporary fencing is not any good, and one of  these days we’re going to have to write you a letter on it.’

“So, we staved it off as long as we could, then finally we decided we’d better start designing a permanent fence, and we brought it to the city and then we get the letter from Transport Canada,” Hanrahan said.

“When we met with (the city), we said we were going to do a permanent fence and they said that would be great.”

The $900,000 project has been supported by council since September and was included in the city’s 2013 budget. Council’s contribution to the fence is $425,000.

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

Hanrahan has said the marginal wharf doesn’t meet security standards and therefore jeopardizes a $250-million industry that employs 3,000 people.

Organizations: Transport Canada, Port Authority, CBC Marine Transportation Security Regulations Royal Trust Building

Geographic location: Atlantic Place.Hanrahan

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Recent comments

  • Happily Retired
    December 15, 2012 - 08:58

    Transport Canada did not "duck the fence issue." It sent a communication saying the fence was not required. Hanrahan should be happy with this clarification, but he's exasperated. Why? Is he not getting the fence he wanted, regardless of what TC says? Isn'y it about time that the Mayor and councillors finally stood up for their constituents instead of bowing to the powerful special interests in this city

  • crista
    December 15, 2012 - 08:25

    why don't they do there jobs right and stop wasting taxpaying dollars for there own interest they talk about what is best they do not know how ???? to investiagate an accident report and when it comes to public safety what do they do run you around with there $10 words they are suppose to go by the rule of law and they rule by law there law take it or leave it.The are being paid and paying out taxpaying dollars to keep people safe and they say go get a lawyer and go through there due process well we do not need there lawyers WE WANT JUSTICE AND THEY DO NOT WANT THE TRUTH TO COME OUT???? AND IF THEM THINK THEY ARE INSULTING US.THEN THEY ARE THE ONES WITH SERIOUS PROBLEMS???? AND WE ARE NOT ONLY TALKING ABOUT CITY HALL????

  • Jeremiah
    December 15, 2012 - 07:36

    So, the fence which O'Keefe wants us to pay for is not required but will probably go ahead anyway. Dennis, maybe you are trying too hard to impresss the cruise lines.