SAN PEDRO, Calif. – When a cruise ship comes into the Port of Los Angeles there are several layers of security it has to go through.
Port of LA Police Sergeant Ralph Edwards is part of the dive team. When he can’t get in the water, he uses a Remote Operated Vehicle.
For about 24 hours after it rains the water at the port is too contaminated for even the dive team. They risk infection because of the runoff. Instead, the ROV goes in near the bow thrusters of the cruise ship to inspect the underside.
The water isn’t the only threat facing officers. They are dutifully seeking out drugs, smuggled people, and terrorism.
“Every day is something different. Over the years I’ve gotten to do a lot of work that most people wouldn’t be able to do,” said Edwards.
Underwater inspections are done at random, but after the 9/11 terrorist attacks it became a requirement for at least two officers to board every cruise ship coming into the port. This happens about a mile out from land where the water is rougher.
“The hardest part is probably making that boarding, can be somewhat physical to get onboard, walking through the ship,” said Sergeant Mark Pagliuca, one of the boarding officers.
The boarding officers stay on the ship until it is secured at the dock. If there is a violent passenger they have a direct line to the patrol boats that escort each incoming cruise ship.
On land, the police canines sniff for drugs, explosives, and guns. The Port of LA Police have 10 canines. They go through all the checked luggage.
Edwards has been part of the dive team since 1998.
“I think anyone that dives and places themselves in an environment like that would be foolish to say they haven’t been nervous or haven’t had some type of second thought of why they’re down there,” said Edwards.
Many vacations start at the port, but Edwards isn’t resting.