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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

U.S. Government Plans to Fingerprint Cruisers at Terminals

The U.S. government plans to start fingerprinting foreign travelers -- including cruisers -- as they leave the USA. The proposal, to be unveiled yesterday by the Homeland Security Department, would require cruise lines to collect the fingerprints from passengers as they board ships in Miami and other U.S. ports. Airlines would have to collect fingerprints at airports.

Only foreigners would be fingerprinted, not U.S. citizens. But the requirement could cause delays for everyone at cruise ship terminals. It's also expected to add to the cost of turning around ships in ports -- costs the cruise lines likely will pass on to consumers. The proposal calls for cruise lines and airlines -- not the U.S. government -- to pick up the tab for the fingerprinting.

The cost "is above and beyond our biggest nightmare," a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association said. "This is literally the most expensive security program in the history of aviation." The U.S. government's own projections place the cost at more than $2 billion over 10 years.

Airlines, cruise lines and others will have 60 days to comment before a final requirement is issued. A Homeland Security Department official, Robert Mocny, stated that nothing will change for airline and cruise ship passengers between now and June 2009. Mocny says the proposal is aimed at helping the government track down visitors, including suspected terrorists, who stay in the USA after they are required to leave.

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