Grants to help port security in Hawai'i
The state and four Hawai'i companies will receive more than $7 million in federal grant money to help combat terrorist threats by sea, Sen. Dan Inouye announced yesterday.
"As we all know, Hawai'i is very dependent on maritime traffic. Our ports are vital lifelines for our islands," said Inouye, D-Hawai'i, adding that the grants are key to ensuring the safety of Hawai'i's ports.
The largest grant, for $2.9 million, was awarded to the Tesoro Hawaii Corp., which owns a refinery in West O'ahu. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources will receive $1.5 million for Kailua on the Big Island and Matson Navigation Co. will get $805,000.
Other grants all more than $600,000 were awarded to the state Department of Transportation, The Gas Co. and Chevron Products Co.-Hawaii Refinery.
Coast Guard Lt. Charlie Johnson, the assistant chief of Hawai'i's port operations, said the grants will pay for physical upgrades to security at the ports, ranging from barriers to security systems to training programs.
The grants are awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration. This is the second year they have been offered.
Johnson said he led the committee of Coast Guard personnel that reviewed Hawai'i's applications for the grants and ranked them for the transportation department.
During the review process, the committee investigated whether a company's claim to a potential security threat was valid and, if so, how severe that threat was.
Officials at Tesoro Corp. and the state's DLNR did not return phone calls seeking comment. Chevron referred comment to the Coast Guard.
Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Todd Offutt also could not give specifics on what the money will be used for, but said the grants will address different areas of port security concern.
Hawai'i residents and cruise ship passengers "may or may not" see any difference at Hawaii's ports because of the grants, he said.
"Some of those things are visible and some are less visible."
Offutt said the Coast Guard continues to see improvements in the physical and computer security at Hawai'i's ports.
"The state of Hawai'i has done a very good job," he said. "We have a very good security posture. I think we are doing quite well."
The grants are part of the $150 million in the 2003 Omnibus Appropriations Act and $20 million from the 2003 Supplemental Appropriations Act set aside for port security.
Other ports that received awards include: The New York City Department of Transportation, $7 million; the port of San Francisco, $3.4 million; and the Alaska Department of Transportation, $2.2 million, Inouye press secretary Mike Yuen said.