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Questions Regarding Port of Portland (Maine) & Ports in General
Posted: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 2:54 PM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 51

So, as someone who's never lived near a port, nor known any dockworkers/longshoremen, I'm a little bit lost on some of the specifics of how a port works (and it's one of the few topics I've been unable to find sufficient answers to by searching).

A bit of setup: This is for an urban fantasy novel set in Portland, ME. Some of the characters work as longshoremen at the port, preferably receiving international container shipments (there's smuggling involved).

So, some questions:

Which dock(s) would they likely work at? I know that Portland has something like 7 different docks, but I can't really find much about which docks handle which types of cargo (other than the oil company docks). This wouldn't be as important if the docks weren't so spread out in Portland, but I'd like to know which neighborhoods my characters are likely going through on their way home, what businesses/bars they likely frequent, etc.

What kinds of safeguards are in place to prevent smuggling (mainly of drugs) at ports in general, or specifically in Portland? What kinds of things could someone who works at the docks do to circumvent these safeguards? 

Any other insights into the life of a longshoreman or dockworker would be great. Like I said, I know next to nothing. This isn't a big part of my story, but I'd at least like to have a passing knowledge so I can work it in a little bit. Thanks in advance!

Danielle Bowers
Posted: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 3:45 PM
Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 280

I don't know a lot about the ports in Portland, but I can give you some info on security and smuggling.

Shipping container lots are regularly patrolled by drug sniffing dogs. I used to train drug and cadaver dogs and shipping yards were regular training grounds.

Most of the yards will have cameras mounted high with 24/hour security watching and patrolling. Thieves will target the containers because it could be weeks/months before the missing goods are stolen. There used to be big internal theft rings with the security men who would stage a theft but in reality it was security who were the thieves.

Posted: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 7:26 PM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 51

Good info! Thanks!
Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011 2:24 AM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 8

I've lived in two major port cities, and I could tell you about them, but every city is its own experience. If you want to set your story in Portland, you'll have to read a lot about Portland, and possibly talk to people who live there, watch movies or television shows set there, and maybe even visit yourself. However, I can give you one great reference on American ports: the second season of 'The Wire', which renders the port of Baltimore in exhaustive detail and offers extensive insight into the involvement of ports in the drug trade and the security systems and procedures in place to combat said trade. It's also great television.
Joe Selby
Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011 4:37 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 30

I would recommend starting by reviewing this site: http://www.portofportlandmaine.org/

Once you've reached the limit to the information you can glean there, contact the harbormaster's office and schedule an appointment to speak to someone (don't assume they'll have time to talk the first time you call).

You can also get information by calling the PR departments of the DEA, Homeland Security, and Coast Guard as well as contacting the local stevedores (dock workers) union.

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