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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Maritime Infrastructure Security Breaches from Drones ‘Becoming a Common Occurrence,’ Says Report on Port Defense

Cyber threats, threats posed by unmanned aerial systems, and active shooter/active threat incidents addressed by Area Maritime Security Committees in conjunction with Coast Guard.

Drones lurking above sensitive maritime facilities “are becoming a common occurrence” and current federal counter-UAS legislation “has been largely ineffective” as authorities and capabilities are lacking to interdict suspicious crafts, said a new report summarizing challenges ahead for local maritime security and preparations for cyber and physical threats.

U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Andrew J. Meyers, chief of the Office of Port and Facility Compliance, called Area Maritime Security Committees (AMSCs) “essential to defending our nation’s ports” at the outset of the 2022 annual report rounding up the year’s challenges and accomplishments of the AMSCs.

“They enable strong relationships, collaborative planning, open lines of communication, and unity of effort. We rely on our AMSCs to manage today’s complex risks while also looking ahead to emerging areas of concern,” Meyers wrote. “They are a key component of the layered security that is necessary to protect our Marine Transportation System (MTS) from the diverse threats it faces. Their importance cannot be over emphasized.”

Cyber threats, threats posed by unmanned aerial systems, and active shooter/active threat incidents all “reinforce the benefit of AMSCs,” Meyers added.

“These are complex, enduring issues that require a whole-of-government and whole-of-industry effort,” he said. “AMSCs are perfectly positioned to coordinate those efforts at the local and regional level.”

The establishment of AMSCs — which improve information-sharing between port stakeholders and government, conduct risk assessments, forge mitigation strategies, assist in developing the Area Maritime Security Plan (AMSP), and help conduct exercises and training — was mandated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002. Last year, AMSCs across the coasts held 938 training events including 650 maritime security training operations; the vast majority were conducted in the Atlantic Area.

AMSC exercises in 2022 included a May port cybersecurity tabletop exercise in the Port of NY/NJ and Port of Albany to evaluate readiness during a potential sustained GPS disruption and the November Port Protector exercise that focused on the response to an extended loss of electrical power to the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex from cyber and physical attacks. AMSCs in North Carolina, Southeast Michigan, and Puget Sound conducted workshops and drills to prepare for the potential of active shooters/active threats on passenger ferries.

Not all AMSC activities were drills. Sector Long Island Sound (LIS) and the LIS AMSC subcommittee partners responded to a pair of disruptive bomb threats made against the Bridgeport/Port Jefferson ferry system on Sept. 6 and Sept. 14, 2022.

And security breaches involving drones around maritime ports and critical infrastructure “are becoming a common occurrence.”

“AMSCs are still reporting unauthorized UAS flights over their MTSA regulated facilities and are concerned about the potential threats to the MTS,” the report states. “AMSCs continue to report that the existing federal legislation aimed at reducing the risk of UAS to port areas has been largely ineffective, and all levels of law enforcement (LE) lack the authority, policies, and equipment to identify and safely interdict unauthorized UASs.”

The Baton Rouge Regional AMSC UAS Working Group received reports from May 2022 through August 2022 about UAS observed “flying slowly over a MTSA regulated facility several nights a week.”

“Further, 15 separate incursions were reported between July 14th and July 22nd, 2022,” the report continues. “In response, Louisiana State Police (LSP) requested federal assistance in investigating the UAS intrusion recognizing the need for specialized UAS detection equipment or personnel or both, to assist in identifying the operator(s) of the drone and their location. In coordination with LSP, the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, Ascension Parish, and local industry stakeholders, Sector New Orleans successfully requested and deployed the Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team C-UAS capability. The capability was approved in 14 days and is the first time the C-UAS capability has been deployed in an emergent operational scenario.”

“The lessons learned and best practices captured during the 84 hours of operations will inform future use of the capability,” the report adds.

The Coast Guard said in the report that the Office of Maritime Security Response Policy (CG-MSR) is engaging with the DHS C-UAS Program Management Office “on a near daily basis” and “engages with FAA for all C-UAS ops, C-UAS research, testing, training, and evaluation, and during the monthly DHS-FAA Interagency UAS Security Meeting.”

Coast Guard Headquarters also has been developing guidance and other resources to further cybersecurity in the MTS including developing a Maritime Industry Cybersecurity Resource Center website in conjunction with CISA and MARAD as “a single-source hub for MTS related cybersecurity resources and provides current information related to reporting cyber incidents, relevant policy and guidance, cyber related bulletins and alerts, and links to other useful sources” and launching an annual Cyber Trends and Insights in the Marine Environment Report through Coast Guard CYBER Command.

To help address the threat of active shooters CG-MSR and the Office of Law Enforcement Policy (CG-MLE) released CGTTP_3-93.12 Tactical Procedures and Active Shooter-Active Threat Response TTP in May 2022 and developed an AS/AT Law Enforcement Responder ‘C’ School last year that teaches the recommended standard federal, state, local, and tribal tactical response.

“The growing number of AS/AT occurrences compels committees to be prepared for an incident in the maritime domain,” the report notes.

author avatar
Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.
Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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