AUBURN – Fear not: The likelihood of a terrorist weapon of mass destruction slipping into the Port of Auburn is nil.

In Washington, Congress is focused on a Bush administration proposal to turn over management of several U.S. ports to a United Arab Emirates-owned business. Critics fear that port security could be compromised if a Middle Eastern company has such control.

Some also have pointed out that several of the 9/11 terrorists had financial or other ties to the UAE.

Among those questioning the proposed Dubai Ports World deal to operate six U.S. ports is U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

A leading advocate for the Auburn port, she fired off a series of questions Tuesday to the Homeland Security Department asking about an ignored Coast Guard report that raised security questions over port operations under Dubai Ports World.

Closer to home, those in charge of running the Port of Auburn say security here isn’t an issue.

And Snowe agreed.

“The circumstances at the Auburn facility are much different than those at the large East Coast ports at issue in the Dubai Ports World deal,” she told the Sun Journal. “Even so, we should all be concerned with ensuring that our transportation security apparatus meets the challenges of global terrorism.”

The Auburn port gets cargo that originates in shipments from such far-flung places as Tel Aviv and Hong Kong. That material typically gets at least two inspections before it ever gets close to Auburn.

Customs Canada inspects Auburn-bound containers coming off freighters in both Vancouver, B.C., and Halifax, Nova Scotia, said Ray Goss. He’s the general manager of the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad, a subsidiary of the Genesee & Wyoming Railroad.

U.S. Customs inspectors then take another look at loads hauled by Canadian National Railway, St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad’s partner, that are destined for this nation as they come across the border. Goss said those agents will sometimes flag a load headed for Auburn for additional inspection.

Sometimes the load will be sidetracked and examined right at the border; other times, it’s hauled into Auburn then segregated in a secure impound area to await a more thorough inspection.

The St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad operates the intermodal facility near the municipal airport. The 5-acre facility was designated by the Department of Homeland Security as the Port of Auburn in July 2003 because it is within the port limits of Portland. U.S. Customs approved the facility for customs officers to inspect cargo there.

Security includes a well-lighted, fenced-in area that has within it the locked impound area. Additionally, Goss said the port employs security guards who work around the clock monitoring the area and keeping track of who comes and goes.

“I feel pretty good about our intermodal facilities,” Goss said in citing the 24-hour security set up for the site.

Port security is augmented by regular police patrols in the area, which includes the airport and other industrial sites. One of those, Safe Handling, has an extensive network of nearby rail spurs and trucking facilities with their own security in place.



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