Contact Information

  • Anna Kim-Williams, Governor’s Office, 360-902-4113

  • Alt Contact:  Nelsa Brodie, Washington State Patrol Public Affairs, 360-753-5299; Nancy Bickford, Washington Emergency Management Division, 253-512-7712; Linda Mullen, Washington State Department of Transportation, 206-949-2140; Andre Billeaudeaux, Coast Guard, 20

Gov. Christine Gregoire announces new division for State Patrol to increase coordination and security efforts for state’s ferries

For Immediate Release: March 10, 2005

Gov. Christine Gregoire today announced the creation of Vessel and Terminal Security (VATS), a new division within the Washington State Patrol (WSP), to increase coordination and security efforts for the state’s ferries system. VATS is a coordinated federal and state partnership between the state’s patrol, homeland security and ferries agencies and the Coast Guard.

Maj. Gen. Timothy Lowenberg, director of the Washington State Military Department; WSP Chief John Batiste; Adm. Jeffrey Garrett of the U.S. Coast Guard; Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Secretary Doug MacDonald; and Washington State Ferries (WSF) Director Mike Anderson announced the creation of the new division during a news conference in Seattle. The governor was unable to attend but sent remarks, which were read by Gen. Lowenberg.

“The new division will help maintain ferry security and public safety in Washington state,” Gov. Gregoire said in a statement. “As the third-largest ferry system in the world and a key asset here in Washington to our economic vitality, we need to ensure the safety of this system. We need to keep it running smoothly and safely for our commuters and tourists.”

Gov. Gregoire added in her statement that the 9/11 Commission report said that a major flaw in the federal government prior to the attack was the lack of information sharing between branches of government.

“This enhanced federal, state and local partnership provides a more centralized organizational structure and a coordinated operational emergency response,” Gen. Lowenberg said. “This is another vital step in furthering our statewide homeland security strategic plan.”

Steve Sutton, former lieutenant in Kennewick and 17-year veteran with the WSP, was appointed captain of VATS, which will be headquartered at the U.S. Coast Guard base at Pier 36 in Seattle. Sutton will serve as central commander and oversee the coordination of troopers and sergeants, formerly spread out amongst three districts with three different supervisors.

“We’ve worked closely with the WSP and Coast Guard since 9/11 to institute a wide range of security improvements throughout the ferry system,” explained Anderson. “Our first concern is the safety of our passengers and employees, and the new VATS will enhance our ability to protect our passengers and respond to emergencies. Communications will be quicker and easier for the Ferries’ staff.”

Like all transportation systems, the Washington State Ferry System is considered vulnerable to a possible terrorist attack. The State Patrol, focusing on the key elements of the Washington State Homeland Security Strategic Plan, has been providing enhanced security for the ferries, ensuring that the U.S. Coast Guard marine transportation security measures are being met and exceeded.

“Since 9/11, our mission has changed,” said Chief Batiste. “We now go beyond traffic law enforcement activities in working with our federal, state and local partners in emergency preparedness and response. We are proud to work with these outstanding partners and provide enhanced security to the Washington State Ferries.”

“This is truly an important partnership highlighting our continued progress in Washington state and across the country working as one team to ensure the security of our citizens,” Adm. Garrett said. “Our partnership with the Washington State Patrol is the right move at the right time. It’s a relationship that clearly makes sense.”