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President Downplays Threat of Port Closure

GOVERNMENT officials this weekdownplayed concerns that the country’sfailure to ratify an international maritimeagreement would result in full-scale paralysisof international commerce at the country’sports.However, “just to be certain,”President Abel Pacheco on Tuesday nameda special commission of top officials tostudy security standards at the country’smain ports. The commission will issue areport on potential improvements by nextTuesday.Pacheco and Public Works andTransport Minister Javier Chaves areexpected to sign a presidential decreetoday that would give government institutionsmore power to ensure the country’smain ports are fully certified by July 1.THE measures were taken in responseto warnings issued by the Costa RicanChamber of Commerce, Chamber ofExporters (CADEXCO) and NationalChamber of Tourism (CANATUR), whichsaid failure to certify the country’s ports bythe July deadline could wreak havoc oninternational commerce by restricting thearrival of foreign commercial vessels andcruise ships at the country’s ports.During Tuesday’s weekly cabinetmeeting, Pacheco said everything is undercontrol.“There’s no reason to worry about theissue,” Pacheco said. “We are complying.We are hurrying because we have to hurry,but we’ve been hurrying for a long time. Iam confident we will comply. But forgreater certainty, to make sure not a singlelight bulb is missing in [the Pacific shippingport of] Caldera, we are naming thiscommission.”THE agreement in question is theInternational Ship and Port FacilitySecurity Code (ISPS Code) of the UnitedNations’ International Maritime Organization(IMO). The ISPS Code is a recentamendment to the 1974 InternationalConvention of Safety of Life at Sea(SOLAS), which Costa Rica has yet to ratify.ISPS guidelines seek to provide aframework for the implementation of shipand port security strategies aimed at dealingwith potential security threats, includingterrorist attacks.Although Costa Rica is not a memberof the international convention, it isrequired to meet the ISPS code. TheUnited States, one of the main proponentsof the code, has urged all of its tradingpartners to implement port security measuressimilar to those of ISPS.“In December 2002, as a result of theSept. 11 (2001) terrorist attacks, there wasa worldwide state of alert,” explainedLorena López, vice-minister of PublicWorks and Transport and head of the newspecial commission in charge of port security.“For the first time, the InternationalMaritime Organization began to considersecurity at the port installations an importantissue that needed to be regulatedthrough international maritime legislation,”she explained.ISPS requires shipping ports to draft aPort Facility Security Plan and be certifiedby the government.The Public Works and TransportMinistry’s (MOPT) Port Works andAquatic Transport Division is the institutionin charge of certifying the country’sports.CAPTAIN Denis Cavallini, institutionalchief of security for the Atlantic PortAuthority (JAPDEVA), says the Caribbeanports of Limón and Moín and the Pacificport of Caldera are practically ready to becertified by the government.“Since the year before last, we’ve hada commission in charge of making sureLimón complies with the code,” Cavallinisaid. “We obtained resources last September.We started with improvements inlighting, and constructed fences around theports. New equipment was purchased forthe security guards. We improved signageand maintenance.”Cavallini estimated JAPDEVA spent¢139 million ($348,000) last year on portsecurity and said it would spend ¢400 million($936,000) this year.“We have been working alongside theU.S. Customs through its representative atthe U.S. Embassy in San José,” Cavallinisaid.Cavallini said Limón and Moín would“definitely” be certified by the end of themonth, because JAPDEVA would submitits security plan by the end of the week.The Pacific Port Authority (INCOP), incharge of the ports of Caldera, Golfito andPuntarenas, says it completed most of thework necessary for certification. OnWednesday, it presented its security plan toMOPT.VICE-MINISTER López denied thegovernment had waited until the lastminute before taking action to certify thecountry’s ports. She noted that as of June16, only 663 of 6,117 ports around theworld had been certified, according toIMO.“The important thing is we’re going tocomply with the same security requirementsthat are being required of countriesthat adhere to SOLAS,” López said. “Also,in the short run it’s likely that theLegislative Assembly will approve theconvention.”


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