The power of partnerships

Maritime stakeholders include such officials as port captains, officials at the federal, state and local levels, merchant seamen and owners, industry executives, military officers, first responders, legislators, environmentalists and anyone with a stake in the freedom of the sea and the transport that uses it. For decades, the Coast Guard used committees of such stakeholders to address complex maritime issues. A good example followed the disastrous Exxon Valdez oil spill when area committees were formed for spill and pollution response. Coast Guard captains of the port (COTPs) were appointed to coordinate the committees.
Port readiness committees are another example of this kind of teambuilding. These committees ensure the efficient, safe and secure flow of military supplies through ports critical to US military efforts.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Coast Guard responded and built on the success of previous committees by forming Port Security Committees to develop a comprehensive strategy and unified effort for implementing maritime security measures. These were codified by law in the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002, which designated the COTPs as the coordinators of the effort. These committees were subsequently renamed Area Maritime Security Committees (AMSCs).
Early success
The first task of each AMSC was to conduct a vulnerability assessment of its port, and then create and implement an Area Maritime Security Plan to mitigate those vulnerabilities—on a six-month deadline. Yet, despite the pressure, every AMSC produced its plan on time and to Coast Guard standards. The rapid development of these plans was a testament to the COTPs’ experience in building trusting relationships with the maritime community.
Today, the AMSCs serve as a focal point in developing and refining additional strategies and responses to a wide range of maritime homeland security issues. They also provide the conduit for communicating terrorist threat information, security alerts and changes in security conditions to the rest of the maritime community. Composed of not less than seven members, these committees clearly play a critical part in maritime security. The level of cooperation and interoperability they have achieved in just a few months is truly impressive.
The AMSCs are assisting the Coast Guard in implementing its Maritime Homeland Security Strategy. This strategy uses a five-pronged approach focusing on awareness, prevention, protection, response and recovery through partnerships such as the AMSCs to improve American maritime security and readiness to respond should an attack occur. 
The benefits of these partnerships are many and varied. When it comes to intelligence, the AMSC members share threat information, improving awareness and communications in ports. AMSC partners provide a second layer of security in enforcing the MTSA by increasing the presence of security forces in ports, waterways and along the coasts. A good example is in Chicago, where the city police department and Coast Guard work on the river together. Boston is another example; there, the Coast Guard established a unified command with nine other federal, state and local security partners to secure the movement of liquefied natural gas tankers into and out of the port.
The lessons of experience
Through long experience, the Coast Guard has learned that partnerships among stakeholders are the key to solving most maritime challenges. It recognizes the old adage that all of us are smarter than any one of us. Unsurprisingly, this kind of partnership forms the foundation of the Coast Guard’s strategy for implementing maritime homeland security.
As the Coast Guard’s Commandant, Adm. Thomas Collins, stated recently, the Coast Guard is committed to “Jointness with a capital ‘J’” at all levels. To achieve this jointness, it is using AMSCs as the primary coordination tool for merging the diverse capabilities of federal, state, local and private-sector security forces within each US port. These committees have already proven effective in implementing port level security, but they must continue to improve their Area Maritime Security Plans and the coordination of their day-to-day security efforts. HST
Chris Doane is the Chief of Response and Port Security, and Joe DiRenzo III is the Anti-Terrorism Coordinator at Coast Guard Atlantic Area. Both are retired Coast Guard officers who have lectured and been published extensively on maritime security and terrorism issues.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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