STARTING next summer, all ferry passengers will be advised to check-in an hour before departure because of the strict new security controls which will be operative in Palma and all other Balearic ferry ports.
Next July, the new European Union maritime security laws come into force and have to be met by all EU ferry ports.
The new regulations which came into effect this year, apply only to cruise ships, but from next July, ferry passengers will have to pass through the same security checks as airline passengers. What is more, all hand luggage will be checked. Yesterday, central government delegate in the Balearics, Ramon Socias, was forced to admit that the new security procedures are going to add an extra hour on journey times.
Nevertheless, he sees the security improvements as vital.
Socias visited Palma's ferry port yesterday to see the new security controls, which are already in place, and meet the 30 Guardia Civil officers who will be in charge of ferry passengers' security.
Baggage x-ray machines were installed in the cruise terminals earlier this year. Now, however, the machines will be used in all the ferry terminals.
President of the Balearic Port Authority, Joan Verger, said yesterday that the new security controls will be introduced in two phases and the first phase will involve all luggage having to pass through x-ray machines.
The second phase will involve all vehicles being x-rayed.
At the moment, all vehicle registration numbers are checked as they board the ferries.
Socias said that while the extra checks will require passengers to check in earlier, people must understand that these measures are being introduced to improve their safety. Air passengers accepted the tighter controls introduced at airports over the past few years and I am sure ferry passengers will adapt just as easily, it just means a slight change in travel plans, he added.
The Port Authority boss revealed yesterday that the building reformations which had to be carried out to make way for the new security controls and personnel, there will also be a new office where passengers will be able to make police reports, have opened his department's eyes to the need for the ferry port to be completely reformed. Palma harbour has reached saturation point, he said and it's going to cost around 800 million euros to redesign the port, he added.
One of the solutions involves moving the increasingly busy ferry port to the commercial docks, directly in front of the Cathedral, and move all heavy goods traffic away from the sea front.