Advancing maritime security

The International Ship and Port Facility Code (ISPS), which came into force on July 1, 2004, is now firmly ingrained into maritime business practices in the United States. But the worldwide and decentralized nature of the maritime business provides a constant challenge to policymakers. Each port state (the countries where voyages to the United States begin) must implement its own laws reflecting international dictates.
In the second half of 2004, two important legislative mandates—the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act (CGMTA) of 2004 (HR 2443), signed in early August, and the Intelligence Reform and Prevention Act of 2004 (S 2845), signed late in the year—filled in some of the many gaps in global maritime security. Also worth noting is S 2279—a potentially hard-hitting bill still bouncing between the House and Senate that would augment previous security legislation.
The CGMTA of 2004 builds on the Maritime Transportation and Security Act (MTSA) of 2002 in several important respects. It specifically instructs the Coast Guard to build a vessel tracking system consonant with various international treaties.
During the summer, as the CGMTA moved toward enactment, the Coast Guard announced that it had contracted with satellite provider Orbcomm, based in Dulles, Va., for a capability to monitor transmissions from the now mandatory Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponders found aboard deep-sea vessels, in addition to those receivers in coastal areas and aboard weather buoys.
According to Coast Guard testimony on Oct. 6 before the House subcommittee on Coast Guard and maritime transportation, the Coast Guard is working closely with the U.S. Navy on maritime domain awareness (MDA), with Section 807 of the CGMTA explicitly authorizing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop a plan for transforming Navy joint operations centers (such as those in Norfolk, Va., and Charleston, SC) as focal points for MDA. The Coast Guard, carving out its role as the lead agency creating actionable MDA intelligence, also has ambitious plans to provide a common operational picture in the event of a maritime incident to law enforcement at the local levels.
CGMTA also instructs DHS to wade through the morass of available and often overlapping data on vessels, cargo and passengers and develop a plan for streamlining its collection, synthesis and analysis.
Implicit in the CGMTA’s wording is an acknowledgement that coordination must occur among the multiple agencies within DHS that may be collecting similar or even identical data. A good example concerns the movement of vessels: Customs and Border Patrol is efficiently gathering copious quantities of shipment information (even before vessels depart from origination ports, typically two weeks prior to their arrival at US ports), while the Coast Guard gathers similar information, but only regarding specifically defined hazardous cargoes, when vessels are 96 hours out.
This type of coordination within DHS (and elsewhere in the government) is in line with the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, embodied in S 2845. The legislation instructs DHS to begin drafting a national strategy for transportation security (with individual plans for each mode). The maritime modal plan, explicitly linked to MDA in Coast Guard testimony, will build on the national plan already written by the Coast Guard under the MTSA.
Section 4071 of the Intelligence Reform Act applies explicitly to cruise ships, authorizing DHS to develop a mechanism for running passenger and crew manifests against lists of known terrorists, similar to mechanisms used in the airline industry. One leading observer, Dennis Bryant, a lawyer in the firm Holland & Knight, said, “The problem is that the definition of ‘cruise ship’ is so broad as to include any vessel on an international voyage that embarks or disembarks passengers in the United States.  This provision has the potential to capture recreational vessels and small charter boats.”
Integration of security with cargo supply chains will complement interagency coordination. A late December 2004 Congressional Research Service report called Border and Transportation Security: Overview of Congressional Issues ( RL32705.pdf) queried how container inspection technologies now being utilized could “possibly be integrated with a broader network of screening capabilities not just at ports of entry, but possibly used to improve the screening of domestically shipped cargoes; and how information gleaned from security risks identified during the screening of goods might be incorporated into a larger screening network; how these technologies might be inserted into the flow of cargo through ports and transportation nodes to screen more goods…”
In early January 2005, the Coast Guard announced creation of a 20-member Maritime Security Advisory Committee, representing ports, carriers, cargo shippers and others, with the aim of working closely with industry.
Port security grants are also addressed in the CGMTA, which directs DHS to enhance the mechanism for awarding money by requiring input from the area maritime security coordinators (the Coast Guard captain of the port for particular areas), before funds are awarded. DHS was also tasked with developing a broader overview of criteria for awarding grants.
Within DHS, the port security grants are regarded as an area for improvement, according to the December report, Major Management Challenges Facing the Department of Homeland Security, by the DHS inspector general (
The Inspector General reported that “…DHS grant making for this sector of national infrastructure was not well coordinated with the [Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection] Office of Infrastructure Protection, [and] did not account for infrastructure protection priorities in the application review process.” Borrowing a phrase from a Senate version of S 2279, the grants awards should be tied to security plans for particular areas, and should “…take into account national security priorities, national economic, and strategic defense concerns and shall be coordinated with the Director of the Office of Domestic Preparedness to ensure that the grant process is consistent with other Department of Homeland Security grant programs.” HST
Barry Parker, managing director of bdp1 Consulting Ltd., provides guidance on maritime business, technology and security. A maritime industry veteran, he has served as project manager in implementing Internet tracking of vessels.

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