- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2003

The U.S. Coast Guard removed two Iraqi-national crew members from an oil tanker it boarded in the Delaware Bay and are holding them in an undisclosed location.
The Qatar-flagged, 880-foot tanker is anchored at the Coastal Eagle Point Facility, a refinery across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, and remains under armed control of the Coast Guard, which boarded the ship last week.
Two new crew members were flown into the country to replace the Iraqis, said Coast Guard spokesman Bill Barry.
The location of the Iraqis cannot be disclosed because "it is still an ongoing operation. We're still on board and still have command of the vessel," Mr. Barry said.
The Coast Guard captain of the Philadelphia Port ordered the Aldawha to remain at anchor Wednesday after he was notified through an advanced-screening process that the two crew members were on board.
The Coast Guard is part of the new Homeland Security Department and is an integral part of Operation Liberty Shield announced by Secretary Tom Ridge last week to protect Americans against a terrorist attack.
After the threat alert was raised from elevated (Yellow) to high (Orange), the Coast Guard increased air and water patrols around the nation. All ships with foreign flags are being screened and tracked.
Officials said there are no other reports of foreign citizens being detained by the Coast Guard.
"We obviously have more people out there and more patrols out there. If something else is going on, there is a pretty good chance we will see it," said Tod Lyons, Coast Guard spokesman.
Nearly 5,000 vessels arrive daily in one of 300 ports across the country, and more than 10,000 commercial ships have been boarded since September 11.
Mr. Lyons would not discuss which ships or countries are targeted. He said decisions are based on intelligence reports, the ship's country of origin and its cargo.
"If something catches our attention, we look at it more closely," Mr. Lyons said.
Under the heightened alert, aircraft using infrared and other equipment that can read a car license plate are patrolling the Potomac River, and additional Coast Guard cutters are patrolling the East Coast.
Boaters are required to stay at least 100 yards clear of Navy vessels and avoid areas that may be perceived as suspicious, such as bridges or port facilities.
Large commercial vessels are required to give 96 hours notice and a crew list before sailing into ports. The number of random boardings and inspections has increased.
More than 3,000 reservists have been activated to provide additional patrols at ports loading military supplies for the war in Iraq.
The Coast Guard was formed in the late 1700s and focused on search-and-rescue efforts. After the September 11 attacks, the focus shifted to securing the nation's ports.
"We are looking to deter, detect, prevent and respond to any threat to the ports around the country, and we are going to continue to do that as long as necessary," Mr. Lyons said.
"Boaters can expect to see more Coast Guard out there and need to be prepared with photo identification. If they are going to be loitering in areas of interest like bridges, chances are they will be boarded by the Coast Guard, and they should be prepared for that."

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