In Magazine Article, News
May/June cover

Read this article in the digital edition of our May/June 2019 issue.

By Todd Karpovich

Photography by Donovan Eaton Photography

The Port of Baltimore has been steadfast and on the cutting edge when it comes to security.

The Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA) has the latest technology and strategies to detect any potential threats. The Port also works closely with its partners — U.S. Customs & Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard and MDOT Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) Police — to ensure safety.

Security team

The security team for the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA) includes (from left): Michael DaPonte, Security Specialist; Charles Santerre, Senior Security Specialist; Gina Watson, Security Specialist; David Espie, Director of Security for the Port of Baltimore; and Laura Mullen, Security Information Specialist.

“A culture of acceptable behavior on MDOT MPA terminals has been reshaped and incorporated,” said David Espie, Director of Security for the Port of Baltimore. “It is now clear to all those who utilize MDOT MPA terminals that there is an obligation and requirement, without fail, to abide by all rules and regulations set forth in the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, Safe Ports Act of 2006 and relevant Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR).”

He added: “The MDOT MPA Office of Security incorporates an analytical process when assessing its security posture, whether refining current procedures or considering physical security technology for future installation.”

Some of the latest initiatives and programs through the federal Port Security Grant program that make the Port safer include:

  • Enhancing the Access Control System software and hardware
  • Expanding and refining the Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) system
  • Hardening access control points with state-of-the-art barriers
  • Implementing/upgrading cybersecurity technology
  • Expanding opportunities for deterrence operations between the MDTA Police, U. S. Customs & Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The new technology is an extremely important element of the Port’s security program. Within MDOT MPA terminals, security personnel utilize multiple forms of technology that were purchased and installed only after the quality, usability and clear necessity of the technology were established.

“I believe the MDOT MPA Office of Security, in coordination with our MDOT MPA partners, such as our Information Services Department, has a sound mix of outstanding personnel, realistic policies and procedures and meaningful technology, providing Port users a safe and secure environment,” Espie said.

The enhanced technology is vital because the Port of Baltimore operates on a seven-day, 24-hour cycle. As a result, a myriad of individuals need to enter the terminals on a daily basis, including MDOT MPA employees, tenants, contractors, vendors, International Longshoremen, shipping agents, crew members, U.S. military personnel, law enforcement and visitors.

“Hence, you have to develop and implement a balanced security program that establishes strong security protocol while facilitating commerce at the same time,” Espie said. “As Governor Hogan emphasizes, Maryland is open for business, and security must not be a roadblock to that mission.”

Espie brings vast experience to his position and has served as the Director of Security for MDOT MPA since August 2011. One of the keys to his success has been adapting to the changing environment and having talented personnel who provide prodigious support.

“The development of a highly educated, experienced and qualified staff [is important],” Espie said. “Port security is highly demanding. It mandates personnel who are energetic, intelligent, inquisitive, dedicated, articulate and sound writers.”

Espie also understands the Port needs to have an effective relationship with its partners at the Coast Guard, Customs & Border Protection and the MDTA Police to keep the Port safe.

MDTA police

Sgt. Brian Martin, Lt. Daniel Bowser, Officer Andrew Choe and Officer Matthew Stewart help keep the Port of Baltimore safe from potential threats. The staff routinely interacts with personnel around the Port to ensure compliance.

Espie is the Contract Manager of the MDTA Police Port Detachment, and they have a Memorandum of Agreement, which is revised as necessary. Espie and his staff work with the police on a daily basis. The department, a nationally accredited agency, provides patrol, emergency response, detective personnel, K-9 and other law enforcement services as required at MDOT MPA terminals.

“The MDTA Police Port Detachment and MDOT MPA have a strong working relationship,” said Captain Kevin Ayd, MDOT MDTA Police Commander, Port of Baltimore Detachment. “The safety and security of the Port of Baltimore is a team effort, with each tenant and MDOT MPA employee playing a vital role. The MDTA Police rely on the eyes and ears of everyone here at the Port of Baltimore. As one community, working together, we will continue to promote safety and security.”

The U.S. Coast Guard is a very close partner with the MDOT MPA and is the Port’s regulatory agency. The Coast Guard oversees the implementation and enforcement of the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, Safe Ports Act of 2006, 33 Code of Federal Regulations and the Port’s Facility Security Plan.

“Port security in Baltimore is a collaborative effort between federal, state and local agencies working with industry to ensure the safe and secure movement of goods and services,” said Cmdr. Matthew Fine, Deputy Commander of the Coast Guard’s Sector Maryland-National Capital Region. “That cooperation is fostered through great partnerships and attendance at the monthly Baltimore Port Alliance meetings. Port Captain Joseph Loring attends these meetings to ensure that the Coast Guard shares relevant information and remains up to date on the concerns of the Port community. The Port’s partner relationships within Baltimore are exceptional and serve as an example for other areas.”

Chief Petty Officer Kerry Bolen, Sector Maryland-National Capital Region Port Safety and Security Supervisor, added: “The Port provides vast opportunities for the training of our members due to the variety of cargo they ship and receive. On a weekly basis, we are at the container terminal working with MDOT MPA and Ports America to ensure the proper carriage of hazardous materials and the safe storage of general and HAZMAT containers.

Customs and Border Protection

U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) officers work closely with other federal and local law enforcement partners to detect and deter any national threats and work closely with the MDOT MPA to play a key security role at the Port of Baltimore.

“In May, Sector Maryland-National Capital Region staff conducted a Multi-Agency Strike Force Operation (MASFO), involving 12 other federal, state and local agencies, such as the MDOT MPA, (MDTA Police) and MDOT, verifying compliance with the shipping of goods, required inspections, Transportation Worker Identification Credentialing (TWIC) validation and security posturing at Seagirt and Dundalk terminals. Without the valuable relationships developed between the Coast Guard and all of our Port partners, we could not be successful in having a full picture of the maritime transportation system.”

In addition, Espie’s office works with U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) on a frequent basis. The Port ensures customs personnel can access required space around the terminals to perform their jurisdictional duties, which touch upon all facets of the Port’s operations, including cargo movement and cruise ship passengers.

“Most importantly, we assist as necessary to ensure all outbound container traffic is screened by radiation portal monitors,” Espie said.

CBP officers work with other federal and local law enforcement partners to detect and deter national threat networks, including attacking the threat posed by fentanyl and opioids to residents in and around Baltimore. One example of this partnership was a multi-agency initiative led by Homeland Security Investigations, including CBP Baltimore and the U.S. Postal Inspectors, which was established to identify, inspect and seize drug-laden international mail parcels shipped from overseas to Maryland. This initiative resulted in the arrest of a dark web vendor and the seizure of pill presses and illicit narcotics.

“Collaborating with all of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners in Maryland improves the safety and security of our vital local economic drivers — BWI Airport and the Port of Baltimore — and to a larger extent, the community in which we live and work,” said CBP Area Port Director Adam Rottman.

CBP participates in multi-agency enforcement operations with its Port partners and other entities. For example, CBP holds random safety and security compliance examinations, which bring
together numerous agencies, including the MDTA, Baltimore City Police, Maryland State Police, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Transportation Security Administration and Federal Air Marshals, among others.

“CBP works very closely with all of our Port stakeholders,” Rottman said. “We have formed several partnerships in an effort to better leverage our shared resources in detecting and interdicting illicit activities as well as working to close any vulnerability gaps. CBP participates in regular meetings with these same stakeholders on a variety of topics, including emergency planning.”