Monday, February 14, 2005

Port Security at risk, says opposition

GSLP/Libs Opposition has described what it considers as the failure of the Government to provide adequate manning levels to the Port Department as matter for serious concern given the safety and security implications of such an action. They said that a lack of staff at the Port Department has meant that the lookout has not been manned in the 8am to 2pm shift for most of last week, and there has also been no launch crew.

It is standard practice for the staff to cover the lookout in shifts. The lack of adequate staffing levels has meant that Port staff has been expected to work additional shifts, at overtime rates, to cover the time-period when there is no staff available, said Dr Joseph Garcia.

He said that the absence of a manned lookout tower poses serious questions of security and Port safety.

The role of the lookout is precisely to monitor ships movements in the Bay and Port area. It also provides assistance and support to vessels particularly in times of poor visibility. The Opposition is appalled that the Government have preferred to see the lookout tower unmanned rather than provide the additional staff required. The lack of staffing is also affecting the launch crew, which has to be manned by three people.

Dr Garcia said that the Opposition understands that “the reluctance of the Government to increase staffing levels is a consequence of the decision taken by the staff not to move from the Port Department to the newly created Port Authority”.

Dr Garcia pointed out that at a meeting of the House of Assembly, which took place last month, the Opposition did not support the Government’s decision to formally create the Gibraltar Port Authority as a separate entity to the Port Department.

As far as the Opposition is concerned, the Port Authority for Gibraltar should continue to be the Captain of the Port as has been the case in the past.

Opposition spokesman for Trade and Industry, with responsibility for the Port, Dr Joseph Garcia explained at the time that the Opposition did not consider the statutory creation of the Port Authority to be in the interests of the staff or of Gibraltar as a whole. He recalled that the Opposition had also not supported the creation of the Gibraltar Electricity Authority or the Gibraltar Sports Authority.

"The safety and security of the Port raises wider issues regarding the safety and security of Gibraltar as whole. It is totally unacceptable that the lookout tower, which are the eyes of the Port Department in the Bay, and the Port launch, which is the vehicle through which we exercise our jurisdiction in the Bay over our territorial waters, should at times both be out of action because of a lack of staff. The Government has a duty to provide these services to the maritime community and they must ensure that levels are properly maintained throughout,” he said.


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