Port Fourchon awarded $1.182M security grant

Judy Ledet
May 14, 2007
Jill Lyons
May 16, 2007
Judy Ledet
May 14, 2007
Jill Lyons
May 16, 2007

Port Fourchon, the deepwater seaport located at the mouth of Bayou Lafourche, is the beneficiary of expanded federal anti-terrorism legislation passed last year.

The Greater Lafourche Port Commission will be receiving a grant of $1,182,527 from the Department of Homeland Security to upgrade Port Fourchon’s communications system, said Commission Public Information Coordinator Paula Schouest.

The commission was able to apply for the federal Port Security Grant because the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Security and Accountability for Every Port Act (the SAFE Port Act) on September 30, 2006.

Prior to the Act’s passage, the commission could not apply for federal Port Security Grants. The small population around Port Fourchon, and the amount of tonnage handled by the port, Schouest said, did not meet Department of Homeland Security requirements for grant eligibility.

Through the SAFE Port Act, U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, whose district includes Port Fourchon, was able to broaden Port Security Grant qualifications to include harbors that service the U.S. energy industry.

In a news release, Port Director Ted Falgout said, “Our Congressional delegation worked tirelessly to ensure language was included in the final SAFE Port Act… to include ‘energy’ as a national economic interest when determining port security funding.”

The commission will use the grant money to build a 400-foot communications tower at Port Fourchon, and to purchase new radios for the Port Fourchon Harbor Police, said Chief of Security Jon Callais.

Currently, the port commission leases a privately-owned communications tower located in Galliano, Callais said.

“The privately-owned tower does not have back-up power during a storm,” he said. “The main reason for building the new tower is to make us self-sustaining during a storm-so that our cameras, communications equipment won’t stop running.

“We’re going to take the dishes and the radios, and move them to our own tower,” he said.

The port commission plans to buy 25 Motorola mobile radios, and 30 Motorola portable radios with the grant money, said Commission Information Technology Administrator April Danos.

“Today, our radios are outdated,” Callais said. “Every agency is an island. The new ones will allow us to speak to federal, state, and local law enforcement. All of our radios are not speaking to each other,” he said. With the new radios, “Now, everyone will hear what the other agencies are saying with the flip of a switch.

“First responders, law enforcement, Coast Guard now will have the ability to get in on one system,” he said.

Callais called the ability of different law enforcement agencies to communicate with one another “interoperability.”

Danos said that the new “communications equipment will allow law enforcement agencies to use the same radio frequencies. It will tie them together so they can work interoperably.”

The current Harbor Police radios “don’t have interoperable capacity,” Danos said. Law enforcement agencies “could not all talk to each other in a crisis,” she said.

“The grant money will tie Port Fourchon into the APCOP25 communications system deployed by the Louisiana State Police,” she added.

Callais said that the “grant would allow us to get our radios on that (Louisiana State Police) system. We can’t program our current radios to get on with interoperability.”

The news release states also that the grant money will be used “to enhance the dispatching capabilities provided by Lafourche Parish Fire District #3 for Port Fourchon Harbor Police.”

The fire district dispatches for the Harbor Police, Danos said. The district is located 30 miles from the port, she said.