Security zones in place for Islands' coastline
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
By William Cole
The Coast Guard has finalized permanent security zones in waters off O'ahu, Maui, the Big Island and Kaua'i that represent an evolving response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The security zones, which are effective tomorrow but have been in development and use in some form for the past several years, are intended to thwart sabotage, terrorism and accidents in the waterways through which the vast majority of the state's commerce flows, officials said.
Some zones are continuously activated. Others are activated during heightened risks. When activated, vessels are prohibited from entering the areas without the permission of the Captain of the Port. Doing so risks a less than friendly intervention by the Coast Guard and a $10,000 fine.
Thirteen security zones now are in place. Refinement and subdivision of those zones — which were larger in size after the 9/11 attacks, and as a result, highly restrictive of maritime traffic — has resulted in a middle ground with sufficient security and improved vessel mobility, say representatives from both the Coast Guard and civilian community.
"The Coast Guard, not just in Honolulu but nationwide, has always tried to improve these (security zones)," said Lt. Cmdr. Todd Offutt, a spokesman for Coast Guard Sector Honolulu at Sand Island. "Right after 9/11 the nation was at a different place. It was very heightened security and we were still working on what the nature of the threat was."
That meant that Honolulu Harbor was one big security zone. When activated, it impeded a broad cross-section of commercial and recreational traffic. The harbor now has a security subset that reflects general anchorages.
"So instead of one large zone you have several smaller zones so you can be more focused and targeted in terms of turning that on and off," Offutt said.
Bob Heidrich, who represents about a half dozen yacht clubs for the Hawai'i Ocean Safety Team, whose purpose is promoting stewardship of Hawai'i's waters and enhancing ocean safety, said the finalized security zones are workable.
"I remember not too long ago, leaving Hickam harbor, you had to call in saying how many you had on board, when you are going to leave, when you were going to return," he said.
Heidrich said off O'ahu there really are three active security zones — the port of Honolulu, buffers around cruise ships and the Barbers Point offshore mooring.
"We do a lot of races annually between Ala Wai, Ko Olina and Poka'i Bay, and they all are aware and skippers get briefed about the Tesoro (Barbers Point) security zone," Heidrich said.
CRUISE SHIP SECURITY
In response to the Coast Guard's proposed security zone notice published in the Federal Register on May 20, 2004, one comment from a maritime association said the 100-yard security zone around large cruise ships in Maui, the Big Island and Kaua'i would preclude the use of the harbors by vessels like tugs and barges, which need permission to enter the zone.
The Coast Guard, in the Federal Register, said, "With their high profile and passenger-carrying capacity, large cruise ships are attractive targets for acts of sabotage and terrorism, particularly when they are stationary at a pier or mooring."
As a result, the Coast Guard said the need to obtain permission is not unreasonable.
Reach William Cole at email@example.com.