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New system for Howe Sound mill

The Howe Sound Pulp and Paper mill is spending more than $1 million on security in order to meet new standards for international ports.

The Howe Sound Pulp and Paper mill is spending more than $1 million on security in order to meet new standards for international ports. New international agreements mean the United States can send FBI agents to inspect the mill for compliance with those security standards.

Russ Fulton, president of Howe Sound Pulp and Paper Ltd. (HSPP), said the heightened security was introduced in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"It's really a result of the U.S.," said Fulton. "For us to be able to load cargo here and have that ship visit U.S. ports, we had to meet minimum requirements."

The new security was long overdue in any case, said Fulton.

"We had pretty much next to no security here for years and years. We banked on the honesty of our employees," he said.Wally Dempster, acting human resources supervisor, has been supervising the security project for over a year. He said the main thrust of the project has been to meet Canada's Marine Transportation Security Act, which became law July 1, 2004. "Any port servicing ships on international voyages is expected to comply with the regulations," said Dempster. "The expectation is a secure site."

Shipping companies have also had to beef up their security and must now have a security guard posted at the top of the gangplank throughout the time the ship is docked.

Dempster said following the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. lobbied the International Maritime Organization to set standards for port security as well as shipping security.

"[The U.S.] will only deal with shipping companies that meet those standards. Ships have been denied access to the U.S.," Dempster said.

The United Nations passed a resolution allowing countries to audit each other's compliance to security standards, but "the only ones doing that are the U.S.," said Dempster. "They're the heavy-handed ones."

That means FBI agents could show up to audit HSPP. Dempster said he toured the Weyerhaeuser mill in Kamloops, where he learned the FBI had already visited to monitor continuity of care.

"Transport Canada has told us to expect similar changes to trucking, rail transport, etc.," said Dempster.

Construction Aggregates Ltd., which operates an international port in Sechelt to load gravel on U.S.-bound ships, got off more lightly under the new regulations, according to mine manager Gordon Doerksen.

"Our loading facility on the beach is very small and self-contained," said Doerksen, and the loading dock extends so far out in the ocean that it's not easily accessible from shore.

"Basically, all we had to do was a security plan and audit," said Doerksen. "The cost of getting in compliance was minimal."

Joe Dougherty, who has worked at HSPP for 25 years, finds the new security regulations overdone.

"One guy with a grenade from a rowboat could take out the mill," Dougherty said. "Why do you have this huge security with cameras roving?"

Dougherty also said the intrusion of U.S. authorities into Canada is troubling - "that the Americans can affect my life here today."

"The FBI can audit the place at any time," he said.

Dougherty said the PowerPoint presentation to educate mill employees on the new security included a photo of Osama bin Laden.

"It seemed so patronizing," he said. "In my own view, it's basically an anti-theft thing."

The risk of terrorists targeting HSPP may be small, Dempster said, but there are other good reasons for increasing security, such as the perennial problem of teenagers holding parties on mill property.

"For the health and safety of our employees and the protection of the public, those are reasons in themselves," he said. "I'm not particularly concerned about Osama dropping in here for a visit, but I am concerned about some teenager ending up in our water intake."