Security at Sea

March 28, 2002

As the U.S. government still struggles to get a handle on making airports -- and airplanes -- safer through baggage screening, a newly appointed security czar says he is next going to tackle other forms of travel, including cruise ships. Richard Bennis, the mint-condition U.S. director of maritime and land security -- a newly created position in which he started work this week -- says a policy could be in place by this summer.
Cruise line policies, six months after September 11, still vary wildly. Many cruise lines -- though, surprisingly, not all -- are already asking passengers to put carry-on bags at embarkation through airport-like bomb detector machines. As for checked luggage, some screen, some don’t -- and few will talk about it.
For travelers, the big onboard enhancement is the photo ID card (the same one that serves as your credit card onboard and unlocks your cabin), the technology of which was introduced at least five years ago. It’s definitely becoming more common and rapidly replacing the basic cardboard ID that has been used in the past. And some lines take the carry-on screening even more seriously than simply the first time you board; at ports of call where the technology is used passengers can plan on a little extra waiting time to get back on board. That could mean a pretty quick confiscation of any “prohibited” items -- we’re thinking the of “dreaded alcohol” issue for those lines who have made it one -- if you’re sneaking a bottle onboard in your bag.