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Layered Security in the U.S. Marine Transportation System



The TWIC reader rule builds upon existing regulations designed to ensure that only individuals who hold a valid TWIC are granted unescorted access to secure areas of Coast Guard-regulated vessels and facilities.

“TWIC is a huge part of port security and it goes hand in hand with security plans and programs,” McMenemy said.


FEMA Port Security Grant Program

A number of facilities have procured necessary security equipment and systems using Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) port security grants. Many facilities in lower risk groups already have the equipment, although lower risk-group vessels and facilities may continue to verify TWIC visually.

For example, Port Everglades, Florida, has a very short approach from the sea buoys to the dock. While that can be efficient, it also means that there are short reaction times to respond to potential threats.

The FEMA Port Security Grant Program has helped ports make tangible improvements to their security. “The Port Security Grant Program has funded patrol vessels, video surveillance and access control systems, TWIC readers and infrastructure, sonar equipment, cybersecurity assessments, and numerous other projects to enhance maritime domain awareness and improve response and mitigation capabilities of first responders,” said John N. Young, director of Freight and Surface Transportation Policy for the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA).

“Seaports are the international borders and gateways to America. That’s why AAPA is concerned that drastic cuts in recent years to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s preparedness grant programs, and in particular to the Port Security Grant Program, threaten the ability of our nation to maintain or expand our current level of security,” Young said.


Area Maritime Security Committees

Cmdr. Nicholas Wong is the Coast Guard’s chief of Domestic Ports Division and the program manager for the AMSCs. As the local Federal Maritime Security Coordinator (FMSC), the COTP chairs the AMSC. There are 43 COTP zones, and each has an AMSC. Working together, the AMSC develops the overall security plan for that region.

The committees assist and advise the FMSC in the development, review, and implementation of a coordination and communication framework to identify risks and vulnerabilities in and around ports. Additionally, AMSCs coordinate resources to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from security incidents.

In addition to the Coast Guard, AMSC membership includes other federal, state, local, tribal, and commercial entities. “The AMSC fosters relationships and partnerships at the local level,” said Wong.

The AMSC brings key stakeholders together to create a true partnership to ensure the safe, secure, environmentally responsible, and efficient operation of the Marine Transportation System in that area. As an enterprise, the MTS encompasses more than a port itself, but also includes the waterways, roads, rails, and other intermodal landside connections that move people and goods to, from, and on the water.

According to Wong, collaborative planning, coordination, open lines of communication, working relationships, and unity of effort are essential to providing layered security and effective measures across all segments of the MTS.

“Everyone benefits from the marine transportation system,” said Wong. “In my position, I see the big picture of the intricacies, and the cause-and-effect relationships. It’s all interdependent, so we work together to ensure the MTS is safe, secure, and environmentally responsible. There are so many moving parts, and there [are] so many second- and third-order effects to everything that happens. Working with the partners at the different levels is the most fulfilling part of the job,” he said.

Stakeholder membership and participation is voluntary. While the Coast Guard has a leadership role, Wong said industry’s role is equally important as many of the problems identified and solutions proposed come from industry. “They can inform us of what works best,” said Wong.

“The AMSCs foster partnership by identifying shared concerns and collaborating to reach a common consensus on strategies and goals,” said Dubina. “Face-to-face meetings create trust and familiarity among diverse groups and disciplines.

“The partnerships between federal, state, and local authorities foster … the AMSCs and regular joint training opportunities act as a force multiplier that magnifies and enhances the Coast Guard’s unique powers and expertise,” Dubina said.


U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft speaks about cybersecurity at the 2015 Area Maritime Security Committees (AMSCs) meeting in Brooklyn, New York, June 10, 2015. AMSC personnel conduct meetings, create partnerships and networks, share information, conduct training, assess vulnerabilities, and mitigate risks in support of the Area Maritime Security Plan. U.S. Coast Guard photo Petty Officer 3rd Class Frank Iannazzo-Simmons

Ed Alford, director of corporate security for Jacksonville, Florida-based Crowley Maritime, said his company is an active participant in the local AMSCs. Having industry partners on the water and the waterfront helps with safety and security. “We have [a] good understanding of what’s normal, and what isn’t,” Alford said.

For example, Port Everglades, Florida, has a very short approach from the sea buoys to the dock. While that can be efficient, it also means that there are short reaction times to respond to potential threats. “Everyone has to be vigilant,” said Alford.

Alford said the AMSCs help industry learn about trends that can affect their business, such as narcotics trafficking routes or locations where stowaways are coming aboard vessels bound for the United States. They also share information about new vessels, port facilities, or regulations that have an impact on their operations. Trusted members of the AMSC may also be briefed on highly sensitive information from law enforcement or intelligence sources.

Whether his company is dealing with security of vessels or ports, Alford said the Coast Guard team is superb. “They have a real tough job. South Florida is a busy maritime environment, with fishing, cruise, cargo, pleasure boaters, natural disasters, and crime. Everything is coming at you. The Coast Guard people we deal with are ultra-professional. They know their stuff. It makes the whole community stronger.”

A key strength in the maritime community is the seasoned veterans, said Alford. “There are a lot of knowledgeable and experienced people you can turn to.”

The key, Wong said, is to have the right people working with each other. “Fortunately, we have a lot of very experienced people who know how to work with the right partners at all levels.”

This article was first published in Coast Guard Outlook 2016-2017 Edition.

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