Transport Canada did not order the St. John's Port Authority to erect a new fence along the St. John's waterfront to meet international security standards.

Transport Canada's Steve Bone clarified the federal agency's position in a statement emailed to CBC late Thursday afternoon.

"Transport Canada is satisfied with the Port of St. John's current security plan and did not instruct the port operator to erect new fencing. Any amendments or changes to a security plan must be submitted to Transport Canada for review and approval."

Permanent fence

Sean Hanrahan, the president and CEO of the St. John's Port Authority, said a Transport Canada audit did reveal "vulnerabilities" with the current fence that put the port's security certification at risk. He said a permanent fence is needed to meet standards for International Ship and Port Facility (ISPS) certification.

On Monday, Hanrahan told CBC Radio's On the Go that permanent fencing became a necessity after Transport Canada's most recent audit.

'We are basically putting our certification at risk.'—Sean Hanrahan, president and CEO, St. John's Port Authority

"They [Transport Canada] have found vulnerabilities with our fencing and our perimeter control and our access control," said Hanrahan. "So they're telling us that our level of risk caused by our vulnerabilities are such that we basically are putting our certification at risk."

Hanrahan released a copy of a letter Transport Canada sent to the Port Authority, dated Dec. 10, which reads, in part, "Transport Canada has completed a new review of your Marine Facility Security Plan and noted that it does not meet the requirements of the Marine Transportation Security Regulations." 

Hanrahan said without ISPS certification, the port would not be able to accept, "All foreign flag vessels, all offshore supply vessels, all cruise ships."

Transport Canada said Thursday it "does not instruct port operators to erect fences or other types of barriers, but many port facilities chose this method of restriction."

"It is up to the port facilities to determine how they will restrict access."

Offshore industry okay with current security

Meantime, a spokesperson with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Engineers (CAPP) confirmed that vessels connected with the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore oil industry must be docked at a port with ISPS certification. 

Paul Barnes, the Atlantic Canada Manager for CAPP, noted that most offshore vessels are moored in more secure areas of the harbour, away from the marginal wharf section where the port authority and the city are talking about building the fence. 

However, Barnes said his group is comfortable with current security at the marginal wharf, where offshore vessels stay temporarily while they wait for a more secure berth.

"We view that the current security arrangements that the port has in place are adequate when our vessels are on the marginal wharf outside of the Harvey's supply base," said Barnes.

"We're not advocating for a new fence."

"But," Barnes continued, "We certainly wish to ensure that the port authority is compliant with Transport Canada regulations. However they choose to do so is between the port authority and Transport Canada."