- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

MIAMI (AP) James and Shirley Kelley returned from their weeklong Caribbean cruise yesterday morning to have the hassle of lugging their bags to the airport taken out of their hands literally.
When the Baltimore couple reached the front of the line at the baggage area of the Port of Miami, an airline official retrieved their boarding passes while a federal baggage screener checked their belongings for traces of explosives.
Moments later, their luggage was sent to a waiting truck bound for Miami International Airport and all the Kelleys had to do was get to the airport on time.
"Once I turn my bags over to them, I don't even worry about them anymore," said Shirley Kelley, 70, a retired education association employee.
The Transportation Security Administration yesterday released details of a 90-day pilot project to streamline baggage screening at the port. The program allows passengers getting off cruise ships to have their bags screened for explosives at the port and then taken by a sealed truck to the airport and moved directly onto flights.
"With their boarding pass, they can bypass the screening at the airport, head directly to the gate and they don't have those hassles that perhaps many of you have had most recently," said Steve Rybicki, director of passenger security for the TSA's maritime and land division.
The pilot project was developed for passengers aboard Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and American Airlines through a partnership with the TSA. Federal officials said it was their latest effort to maintain high security standards while reducing travel hassles for passengers.
Before and after the September 11 terrorist attacks, baggage of outbound cruise passengers was not screened at the port. Most passengers would carry their luggage to the airport; others with evening flights had to haul their bags around Miami during their layovers.
By screening the baggage at the port and sending it directly to the airport, security officials say, they reduce the likelihood of tampering while shortening security lines at the airport.
Officials noted that 15,000 passengers can disembark a cruise in a two-hour period during the peak winter months.
"We are easing the pressures and spikes in screening at the airport by screening here at the seaport," said Ed Guevara, the federal security director at Miami International. Mr. Guevara said most passengers have faced only 10-minute lines at the port.
Mrs. Kelley, who completed her fifth cruise this weekend, said the baggage screening was simple. A federal screener swabbed the outside and interior lining of her luggage with a white absorbent paper that was analyzed by a computer for any traces of explosives.
Within seconds, a green light on the computer screen indicated that her bags were cleared.
"I, for one, am very thankful for it. It doesn't bother me at all," Mrs. Kelley said.
"I even notice them taking their shoes off here and there but that's OK, too."
TSA officials said the program likely will be expanded and other airlines and cruise lines have expressed interest in developing similar programs.
The TSA was created after the September 11 attacks to manage overall security at commercial airports.
The agency was placed under the control of the new Homeland Security Department on Saturday.

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