National Guard to Deploy at Four Florida Seaports : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

National Guard to Deploy at Four Florida Seaports November 6, 2001 5:07 pm EST

By Angus MacSwan MIAMI (Reuters) - Armed National Guard soldiers will be deployed at the Port of Miami, the world's busiest cruise port, beginning on Friday to provide extra security for passengers, cruise ships and facilities as the United States wages its war against terrorism, the state commander said on Tuesday.

Guards will also be stationed at Florida's Port Everglades, Port Canaveral and the Port of Tampa, said Brigadier General Jimmy Watson, commander of the Florida National Guard.

"Our seaports and cruise ship industry are critical state assets and they are considered a high risk because of the high level of traffic in and out and the fuel that passes through the port," he told a news briefing.

Although no specific threat against Florida's ports had been discovered, the presence of the troops should serve as a deterrent and boost passengers' confidence, Watson said.

They will help existing security teams to screen passengers and baggage and reinforce perimeter security. They will be armed with M-16 rifles and sidearms which they are prepared to use if necessary, he said.

"If you see Florida National Guardsmen on a security mission carrying a weapon, they have ammunition and they are trained and they have rules of engagement and they know about the use of force," the general told a news briefing. "The Florida National Guard soldiers you see will be armed."

The measures are part of heightened security measures across the nation in response to the Sept. 11 attacks on Washington and New York which killed about 4,800 people and triggered a military campaign against the accused mastermind, anti-U.S. Islamic militant Osama bin Laden, and his supporters, Afghanistan's Taliban rulers.

The Port of Miami bills itself "The World Cruise Capital." On any given day several luxury liners are docked there and thousands of passengers embark or disembark.

It is a base for cruises to the Caribbean and home to major cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean and Carnival Corp.

Port Canaveral, in central Florida, is the No. 2 cruise port.

Like other sectors of the travel and leisure industry, cruise lines have suffered from the aftershocks of the attacks.

Some 335 guardsmen who are now in training will be deployed at the four ports on round-the-clock duty from Friday. More than 100 will be posted at Miami.

"The most soldiers will be here when the most cruise ships are here," Watson said. "We'll be doing a lot of stuff the public can see and there'll be some stuff the public may not see."

Divers will also be used, he said, but declined to give details.

The National Guard will work alongside the Coast Guard, which has heightened its presence at the ports, and law enforcement agencies. It will remain under civilian control.

National Guard troops are already on duty at airports in Florida and across the nation.|top|11-06-2001::17:12|reuters.html

-- Martin Thompson (, November 06, 2001

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