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St. Petersburg Hosts Maritime Security Conference: Tanker or Kayaker, Security Affects You!

Maritime Security 2013 East, held April 15-17 in St. Petersburg, Fla., took for its theme “technologies and strategies to mitigate security threats in the maritime domain.” The maritime security conference brought together representatives of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), port authorities, law enforcement and equipment providers to discuss situational awareness, communications, networks, information sharing infrastructure protection. Topics also included radiological and nuclear detection program implementation; counter-piracy measures, successes and challenges; and maritime security planning and funding.

The delegates had the opportunity to look at new technologies from makers of display systems, radars, acoustic devices and software solutions.

Port Security

U.S. Coast Guard Vice Adm. Sally Brice-O’Hara, Coast Guard vice commandant and Alice Hill, senior counselor to the secretary of Homeland Security, tour the port of Valdez aboard a Coast Guard Station Valdez response boat small Sept. 3, 2010. The goal of the recent Maritime Security 2013 East conference was to bring together government departments and industry to discuss a range of maritime security issues. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley

Attendees had an opportunity to see the Pluto, a surrogate semi-submersible designed to simulate narco-trafficking vessels. With low profiles and low radar reflectivity, these stealthy, drug-running “dark vessels” are being used to bring narcotics and other illicit cargo into the United States. They are extremely difficult to detect. The Pluto is helping experts find ways to employ new sensors and techniques to find the “narco subs.”

The DHS Science & Technology Maritime Security Division also demonstrated the Maritime Security Technology Program (MSTP) coastal surveillance system (CSS). Built around an innovative open source platform, MSTP allows stakeholders at all levels to have access to critical data and information, such as AIS, radar, cameras and sensors to allow real time information sharing in an un-classified level. Built in cooperation with SRI International, MSTP provides comprehensive maritime domain awareness to participants.

“We had a lot of really good operational content this year, instead of some of the more typical marketing overviews you see at some conferences,” said Sareth Neak, president of Neak Media, organizer of the conference. “We heard about the challenges that real operators are facing right now, and the kinds of solutions they need.”

According to Neak, the conference was intended for all stakeholders in the maritime security community which includes law enforcement at all levels, policy makers, facility and port security professionals, recreational boating groups, vessel owners and operators and DoD components that have maritime security responsibilities. “We truly believe that to effectively secure the maritime domain, we must include all stakeholders, security and non-security in the conversation. The maritime domain is very unique in that there are defined user groups and each user group has a vested interest and responsibility in the safety and security of the waters they use. For example, the enforcement of a new security zone greatly affects the ability for the end user to navigate the waters whether they are a tanker vessel or a kayaker.”

Neak said St. Petersburg was selected for the event because it was the east coast home to DHS S&T MSTP Coastal Surveillance System created and housed at nearby SRI International. “The location of the program allowed us easy access to the facility for the demonstration and the USCG Sector for the viewing the surrogate narco-sub, Pluto.”

“Turnout was excellent,” Neak said.

Pluto Narco Sub

The surrogate narco sub Pluto, seen here during tests off of San Diego, Calif., was present at the Maritime Security 2013 East held in St. Petersburg Fla. U.S. Department of Homeland Security photo

“The conference was operationally focused, with the right mix of government, local ports and law enforcement, as well as industry,” said Robert Gauvin, Executive Director of the Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance, (CG-CVC) at U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters.  “These are important stakeholders for us, and we value the partnerships we create and grow at these events.”

“This has been an excellent show,” said Stefan Pollack, CEO and founder of IML, maker of the New SoundCommander acoustic hailing devices. “I really learned a lot from it.

“This has been a good show for us,” said Jim Moore with Terma North America, maker of surveillance radars. “We had an opportunity to see how our Scanter 6002 radar integrated into the MSTP CSS. It was a very successful demonstration.”

“The goal of all of our programs is to foster an environment conducive to relationship building for all of our participants,” said Neak. “I think that the St. Pete program was a very successful program in that brought a lot of people together.  As with our past programs, we will see these relationships flourish. We will continue to emphasize that for the west coast conference coming up in Long Beach.”

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