Over the weekend the New York Times reported on the fact that the Coast Guard is giving ships at sea advance warning of its intention to board and inspect them:
Under intense pressure from shipping companies concerned about costly delays, the Coast Guard is tipping off some large commercial ships about security searches that had been a surprise, according to high-ranking Coast Guard officials.
The searches began after the Sept. 11 attacks as part of a major revamping of the Coast Guard and its new antiterrorism mission. But shipping companies say the surprise boardings at sea cause unnecessary delays, costing up to $40,000 an hour.
“We’re trying to facilitate commerce and keep the port secure â€” and sometimes the two conflict,” said Capt. Paul E. Wiedenhoeft, who is in charge of the port complex here at Los Angeles and Long Beach. “When possible, we’re trying to give shippers as much notice as we can.”
The practice has caused considerable confusion and debate within the Coast Guard. Commanders in some ports acknowledged in interviews that they provided up to 24-hour notice. Others said the practice undermined the inspections.
This practice of advance notification should stop immediately; it defeats the entire purpose of conducting these inspections. Sure, I’d like get a call from the highway patrol letting me know exactly where they’ll be patroling on the freeway each morning, but that would defeat the very purpose of traffic cops. The same thing is true in this instance, and this needs to stop.