The Nov. 8 editorial "First Things First" inappropriately characterizes $900,000 in grant money provided to the Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority as "waste" from a homeland security perspective.

The 2002 Maritime Transportation Security Act requires the development and implementation of a Coast Guard-approved vessel security plan for ferry and passenger vessels capable of carrying 151 persons or more. Every terminal at which such a ferry calls must have a Coast Guard-approved facility security plan. The Coast Guard's estimated cost for the maritime industry to implement this law is $1.5 billion.

Hundreds of vessels operated by members of the Passenger Vessel Association have been required to undertake comprehensive security measures; with the exception of a handful of grants, such as received by the Steamship Authority, all of these security costs have been paid for by the owners of U.S. passenger vessels.

The Steamship Authority provides ferry services from the Massachusetts mainland ports of Hyannis and Woods Hole to the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. Each year, its vessels carry 3.1 million passengers, half a million automobiles and 110,000 trucks. The Coast Guard has determined that large ferry vessels can present attractive targets to terrorists.

The Steamship Authority has applied its federal grants to the acquisition of surveillance cameras, construction of security fencing, establishment of areas in terminals to segregate passengers, and purchase of security wands and metal detectors. The money has not been used for gussying up its facilities, as the editorial suggested.

CORNEL MARTIN

President

Passenger Vessel Association

Arlington