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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 30, 2006

Harbor security to be upgraded

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i officials will use more than $1.3 million in new federal grants to improve security at ports and utilities such as power plants throughout the state, officials said.

The bulk of the money, more than $1 million, will be spent on improvements at Honolulu Harbor and other commercial ports, said Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa.

DOT officials have not yet been informed which grant proposals have been approved. Requests included funding for a new identification system for harbor personnel, technology to detect small ship-board weapons, and a radiation monitoring system for ships entering the harbor, Ishikawa said Thursday.

"We can't go into too much detail for security reasons, but the funds will be used at harbors throughout the state," he said.

The federal grants, announced this week by the federal Department of Homeland Security, are part of an ongoing effort to shore up the security around harbors throughout the country. In all, the department this week awarded grants worth $168 million to states with major ports.

"Hawai'i's lifeblood flows through our harbors," said Maj. Gen. Robert G.F. Lee, the state adjutant general and director of civil defense. "Protecting them and other critical facilities is of paramount importance."

Since Sept. 11, 2001, Hawai'i has spent millions of dollars to improve security at the ports, which handle more than 98 percent of all goods imported to the state. The improvements include establishment of strict new port security zones, requiring companies operating in the port to develop and implement their own security plans, and tougher limits on port access.

Early this year, a new $2 million radiation detector was put into operation at Fort Armstrong to guard against would-be terrorists trying to smuggle nuclear material into the county. Fort Armstrong is the port facility that handles almost all international cargo arriving in the state, and the monitor is used to scan trucks exiting the port area for signs of radiation.

Last month, the state held a massive three-day exercise simulating the explosion of a half-kiloton nuclear device at the entrance of Honolulu Harbor. Hundreds of state and military planners and first responders took part in the Aug. 14-16 exercise.

This week's grants also include $189,000 for "buffer zone protection" around critical facilities such as power plants, fuel production and storage facilities and communications sites in Hawai'i. In addition, the city received about $50,000 for transit security.

Homeland Security officials said priority was given this year to grant applications that prevention and detection of improved explosive devices, especially those delivered via small ships or in vehicles or ferries.

Reach Mike Leidemann at mleidemann@honoluluadvertiser.com.