by Rhonda McBride
8:53 PM AKDT, July 19, 2011
The Port of Anchorage lost a big tenant last month. A U.S. Coast Guard anti-terrorism unit that was based at the port has been a casualty of federal budget cuts. The Anchorage Maritime Safety Security Team was one of twelve units nationwide. The security unit had about 75 staffers, who have since been transferred elsewhere. They worked in an area adjacent to the Port’s main office.
“It’s unfortunate they had to leave,” said Steve Ribuffo, deputy director of the Port of Anchorage. “We have 15,500 feet of warehouse and office space, right here at the dock that’s available.”
Ribuffo says the Port is now working with the Heritage Land Bank to find a new tenant. Otherwise, Ribuffo says the loss of the Coast Guard as a tenant will have no impact on port security, because the port has its own security team.
“They never were part of the day-to-day security force down here at the port. Security of ports is not their mission,” said Ribuffo.
Their mission, according to the Coast Guard, is, to provide waterfront security to port cities with special events that could be potential terrorist targets. From Anchorage, they were deployed all over the country and worked mostly outside Alaska.
The Coast Guard says there doesn’t appear to be a need for the unit in Anchorage.
“They actually did an operation here in the port several years ago,” said Capt. Jason Fosdick, the Coast Guard’s Anchorage Sector Commander. “But in my tenure here as the captain of the port, we never really used them. We never had a cause to use them.”
The most recent deployment of the security unit at the Anchorage Port was in July, 2008, when the USNS Bob Hope, a military airlift vessel, came to support a Stryker Brigade mission.
Fosdick says the nearest Maritime Safety Security Team unit is in Seattle. Should there be an emergency or need for security in Anchorage, the Coast Guard could send the team here. But Fosdick says the Coast Guard has enough resources in Alaska to provide protection to the port in most circumstances, including the time it would take for the security unit to travel to Alaska.
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