A special commission of top officialscreated to study new security measures atCosta Rica’s main ports this week reportedthat port security has improved dramaticallyin recent months because of changesmade by the country’s port authorities.The commission was created June 15by President Abel Pacheco to measure theprogress of the country’s ports in complyingwith the International Ship and PortFacility Security Code (ISPS), a comprehensiveframework for the implementationof security strategies aimed at dealing withpotential threats, including terroristattacks.Shipping ports in Costa Rica and othercountries that comprise the UnitedNations’ International Maritime Organization(IMO) are required to comply withthe ISPS Code by July 1 of this year (TT,June 18).In Costa Rica, the Port Works andAquatic Transport Division of the PublicWorks and Transport Ministry (MOPT) isin charge of certifying ports in compliancewith ISPS.LORENA López, vice-minister ofPublic Works and Transport and head of thecommission, and the executive presidents ofthe Atlantic and Pacific port authorities, onTuesday said the country’s main portswould be certified by the July 1 deadline.“There’s nothing to fear. We have beenworking at this since the middle of lastyear,” explained Alberto José Amador, presidentof the Atlantic Port Authority(JAPDEVA). “We will be certified by July1. I thank the employees of JAPDEVA andINCOP (the Pacific Port Authority) whohave given the most of themselves to makethis happen.”Since last year, JAPDEVAhas investedapproximately $920,000 to improve securityat the Caribbean ports of Limón andMoín, according to Amador.Enrique Montealegre confirmedINCOP is “100% ready” to be certified.INCOP has invested more than $800,000to tighten security in the Pacific ports ofPuntarenas and Caldera.The southern Pacific port of Golfito,however, is not likely to meet the deadline,although it may be certified sometime inJuly, López said.Martha Castillo, vice-minister ofEconomy, Industry and Commerce(MEIC) and member of the commission,highlighted the success of the portauthorities’ efforts.“It was a serious process, nothing wasimprovised,” Castillo said. “These institutionshave full knowledge of the measuresnecessary to protect the country’s ports.Money has been invested in the ports andpersonnel has been trained.”SOME of the training was made possiblethrough cooperation from the U.S.Embassy in San José.“Since the beginning of last year we’vebeen assisting JAPDEVA, identifyingareas that needed attention,” explainedCarlos Fontanez, from the U.S. Customsand Border Protection office at theembassy. “We’ve been helping with trainingat the port, as well. We’ve sent someport officials to be trained in Ecuador,where there was a conference related toport security.”Fontanez said the embassy workedcloser with JAPDEVA than INCOP, sinceat the time INCOP was in the process ofawarding a concession to modernize andoperate a section of Caldera’s port to a privatefirm. That concession remains stalled(TT, Feb. 13).Fontanez said he has seen a great dealof progress in terms of security at thecountry’s ports. He announced the U.S.Coast Guard and possibly U.S. Customswould visit Costa Rica’s ports to conducta security assessment at the beginning ofnext year.PRESIDENT Abel Pacheco this weekstressed the importance of port security intoday’s “dangerous world.”“Security at the ports has a series ofcosts,” Pacheco explained. “We Ticos areused to the way things were during the lastcentury. We could visit ports with our families.People would go to the docks to fish,ladies would come and sell empanadas andcasados. That’s over now. Those timeshave passed.“We live in an era where the world haschanged. It’s a violent world of terrorismand drug trafficking. Costa Rica must adaptto the international situation,” he said.