October 23, 2003

DHS highlights major changes in maritime security rules

On Oct. 22, 2003, the Coast Guard published maritime security final rules.  The final rules revised temporary interim rules (TIR) published on July 1, 2003, and take into account over 400 letters and 1600 public comments the Coast Guard received, including the comments of over 500 people who attended a public meeting on July 23.

"These final rules put in practice innovative protective measures on a nationwide basis," said U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge. "We are using technology, such as the new Automatic Identification System, teamwork in designing and implementing security measures with the private sector, and a flexible response system that government, responders, and industry will all use to immediately increase security to meet emerging threats."  

The maritime security requirements published by the Coast Guard in a final rule on Oct. 22, 2003 replace temporary rules originally issued in July 2003. The final rules effect significant changes in security practices within all segments of the maritime industry, including cruise ships, containerships, and offshore oil platforms. The following chart summarizes significant measures and security enhancements that will now be required of the maritime industry resulting from the new final rules:

Security Measure - Security Enhancement

* Conduct Security Assessments - Identifies potential vulnerabilities and helps determine what security measures need to be implemented
* Develop Security Plans - Allows flexibility to deal with unique security aspects as identified in the assessment.
* Submit plan to Coast Guard for approval -  Ensures consistency in U.S. maritime industry
* Identify security officers - Creates a network of security personnel in maritime industry focusing on security issues.  Also provides an additional set of informed "eyes and ears"
* Increase security as threat rises - Allows more moderate measures under normal circumstances, while ensuring maritime industry is prepared to tighten security when necessary
* Install Automatic Identification Systems aboard large ships - Increases our ability to separate law-abiding from suspect vessels by allowing for comprehensive, virtually instantaneous vessel tracking and monitoring

The Department of Homeland Security has issued a summary of significant changes and clarifications in the final rules.

Automatic Identification System (AIS)

[The DHS release appears to oversimplify easements the Coast Guard has made on carriage requirements. A fuller explanation is available from the Coast Guard Navigation Center].

Ferry System

In the final rule, the Coast Guard clarified the requirements, reiterating that ferries and other passenger vessels will not be required to implement "airport-like" passenger screening and that other procedures will be permitted, including increased security patrols and monitoring as well as random screenings of persons, baggage, and vehicles.

Foreign Vessel Security Plans

The final rule clarifies that foreign flag SOLAS vessel owners do not have to submit security plans to the Coast Guard for approval. Non-SOLAS foreign vessels will be required to have either Coast Guard-approved security plans, comply with an alternative security plan, or comply with measures specified in a bilateral or multilateral agreement. With a stringent and thorough boarding program, the Coast Guard will examine and enforce the vessel's compliance with international security regulations.  Vessels not in compliance may be denied entry into U.S. ports.

Cargo Screening Requirements

The final rules amend cargo-screening requirements, mandating the checking of cargo for evidence of tampering, but no longer require the screening of cargo for dangerous substances. The Department of Homeland Security will explore enhanced solutions, including the development of comprehensive cargo screening guidelines.

Alternative Security Program (ASP)

The final rules allow more flexibility for non-SOLAS vessels and all facilities to participate in an ASP, if they wish.  This program was strongly endorsed by several organizations because it allows security measures to be tailored to the unique needs of each industry segment.

Vessel Security Plans

Security plans are required for all vessels, exemptions are as follows:

* Passenger vessels that do not carry more than 150 passengers, regardless of how many are overnight passengers
* Non-self propelled Mobile Offshore Drilling Units and other industrial vessels (e.g., dredges)

Facility Security Plans

Facilities are required to develop individual security plans, exemptions are as follows:

* Facilities that only service passenger vessels when those vessels are not carrying passengers
* Public Access Facilities that are used by the public primarily for purposes such as recreation, entertainment, retail, or tourism, and not for receiving certain passenger vessels subject to the regulations. Owners and operators of public access facilities will be responsible for implementing appropriate security measures in accordance with the Area Security Plan
* Shipyards

Security Assessment Tools

The final rule provides industry with the flexibility to use their own security assessment tools, but also includes a list of tools that may be used.  This list includes the Transportation Security Administration Maritime Self Assessment Risk Model (TMSARM) a no-cost, user-friendly, web-based, vulnerability-self-assessment tool designed by TSA specifically to meet the requirements of MTSA.  The TSA tool can be found on the web at: http://www.tsa.gov/public/interapp/editorial/editorial_0826.xml.

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