A New Democratic MP says he was surprised to learn there will be round-the-clock security at St. John's harbour, even after a controversial fence is completed.

The permanent barrier, which will cover a stretch of Harbour Drive, and face prominent structures like the Fortis Building and Atlantic Place, is now under construction.

Ryan Cleary, who represents St. John's South-Mount Pearl, said a plan to provide 24/7 security at the site flies in the face of what the St. John's Port Authority told him by phone in January.

"I was told there are two options: the fence or around-the-clock security," said Cleary.

"I thought it was one or the other. Now we're going to have both."

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Ryan Cleary says he was surprised to learn that guards will be patrolling the new security fence by the St. John's harbourfront. (CBC)

Plans for the fence were met with fierce opposition from some St. John's residents, who complained that public access to a prominent part of the harbour will be cut off for the first time in history. Some residents felt the viewing stations that will accompany the fence are a poor substitute for the free access that residents and visitors have enjoyed.

But Port Authority CEO Sean Hanrahan said the plan had always been to have both a fence and on-site security at all times. He said the authority could not afford both until oil companies agreed to cover the cost of security.

Hanrahan agreed there has been a communication problem, and blamed that on the complexity of the issue.

"It's a very comprehensive, complex issue and it's hard to cover those things in a phone call," he told CBC News.

Hanrahan said the harbour needs both the fence and around-the-clock security if it wants to stay an offshore oil seabase and remain an internationally accredited port.

"The plan was always to live up the ISBS code which we are mandated to," he said.

"Canada is a signatory to this, and there's not a single Canadian port authority in the country that doesn't live up to this code."