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Layered Security in the U.S. Marine Transportation System

 

 

America’s economic strength is dependent on freedom of the seas as well as an efficient system of ports and waterways for commercial movement of people, cargo, and conveyances. The United States has the largest system of ports, waterways, and coastal seas in the world, which includes some 95,000 miles of coastline. The U.S. Marine Transportation System (MTS) contains 26,000 miles of commercial waterways that serve 361 ports; 3,700 marine terminals (ranging from marinas to mega-ports); and 25,000 miles of navigable channels. The system also includes more than 1,500 miles of international maritime border with Canada, connecting population centers to the Atlantic Ocean through the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway System.

The individual security plans are not approved at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Facility security plans are submitted to the captain of the port (COTP), who is in the best position to review the plan. Facility security plans are submitted to and approved by the service’s COTP. The COTP is responsible for ensuring regulatory compliance by vessels and facilities operating within his/her area of responsibility. Local Coast Guard personnel are familiar with each facility and how their operations affect the safety and security of the maritime environment as a whole. With the local sector or marine safety unit, the COTP is familiar with the area, the geography, the traffic and the commerce, and the environment.

The “Commandant’s Strategic Intent 2015-2019” states, “Over 90 percent of global trade travels through maritime conveyance, making the safety, security, and environmental stewardship of the MTS a national security and economic imperative.”

The Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA) calls for vulnerability assessments and security plans for vessels and port facilities, and establishment of Area Maritime Security Committees (AMSCs) for ports to coordinate security so that America’s oceans and sea ports can continue to be gateways for economic growth, opportunity, and prosperity.

Dedicated professionals at U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters and in the field ensure that the requirements of MTSA are met.

 

Plan for success

While safety is always emphasized, Betty McMenemy, a marine transportation specialist at U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, said her job’s main focus is to look at security in support of MTSA. “Facilities and vessels have to adhere to rules of MTSA, and the cornerstone is the security plan. Plans have to specify security measures for access control, and how you will keep unauthorized people out.”

McMenemy said the standards are not prescriptive. “Facilities tell us what they’re going to do, and, based on operations and location, the Coast Guard can approve.”

Each facility is different. Some cruise terminals have thousands of incoming and outgoing passengers and crewmembers passing through every day. Others are not much more than a shack on the dock selling trinkets, T-shirts, and tickets.

Not every cruise terminal is like Miami, Florida; not every ferry terminal is like Staten Island, New York; and not every cargo terminal is like Los Angeles or Long Beach, California. “That’s why the rules are not prescriptive. When we review the security plan, we want to know how they will protect their perimeter, restricted areas, and critical infrastructure like cargo-handling equipment, power, and potable water supplies.

“We approve the plan, or work with them until they are compliant,” she said. “I’m proud to say that we have a really good working relationship with industry.

“A lot of agencies work from the top down,” McMenemy said. “We work from bottom up.”

The individual security plans are not approved at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Facility security plans are submitted to the captain of the port (COTP), who is in the best position to review the plan. Facility security plans are submitted to and approved by the service’s COTP. The COTP is responsible for ensuring regulatory compliance by vessels and facilities operating within his/her area of responsibility. Local Coast Guard personnel are familiar with each facility and how their operations affect the safety and security of the maritime environment as a whole. With the local sector or marine safety unit, the COTP is familiar with the area, the geography, the traffic and the commerce, and the environment.

marine transportation system container inspection training

Petty Officer 2nd Class Lawrence Schmidt, a marine science technician at Coast Guard Sector Honolulu, listens during container inspection training at the Port of Honolulu, Oahu, Jan. 28, 2016. Crewmembers from Coast Guard units in Hawaii, Guam, Saipan, Alaska, and Oklahoma, as well as service members from the Marine Corps and Army, attended a five-day training course to learn intermodal hazardous material inspections and transportation regulations. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle

According to Mark Dubina, vice president of security for Port Tampa Bay, the plan process encourages plan holders to customize protection options that best suit the needs of the facility, while creating meaningful protective measures. “Ports contain a multitude of diverse port industries that cover all types of maritime businesses, from cruise terminals to container facilities, and all types of bulk products. The plan process allows flexibility in each situation, allowing each port to maximize efficiencies and deploy innovative solutions.”

 

Alternative Security Programs

But there are Alternative Security Programs, or ASPs, that provide a sort of blanket coverage for groups. For example, industry associations such as the Passenger Vessel Association (PVA) and American Chemistry Council (ACC) have developed plans that cover their broad membership so that each member organization doesn’t have to create an individual plan.

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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...