STEEPED in special security measures, the Port of Palma gave an official welcome yesterday to the North American Naval Destroyer, USS Bulkeley.
Carrying a crew of 303 and currently listed in the Sixth Fleet, the destroyer's visit was to have preceded the arrival on Thursday this week of the nuclear aircraft carrier, George Washington, propelled by two atomic reactors, a stop-off which was later cancelled.
The presence of the Bulkeley itself follows the visit of the launch missile cruiser Vicksburg which arrived in Palma at the end of last month. It was the first visit made by a ship of this capacity by the US Navy for several years.
Accommodating vessels of the Sixth Fleet in Palma's port has inevitably meant problems of space (for wharfs already saturated with commercial activity), and of security which has been demanded by North American authorities. This includes requests for mooring which have appropriately restricted access, and which are guarded at all times.
Recently introduced European Union by-laws on port controls favour this aspect of the American demands, because Palma's East Docks (Dique del Oeste) are currently monitored by both Port police and the Guardia Civil. Access to the wharf where the destroyer is moored is only available to those in possession of a magnetic swipe card and other visitors whose credentials have been verified. The tight security should be seen in the light of the experience of the Bulkeley's sister ship, USS Cole, which was the victim of a terrorist attack in Yemen, resulting in loss of life.
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