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April 15, 2004

Coast Guard to start foreign port evaluations

The U.S. Coast Guard today announced the establishment of an International Port Security Program that will help the United States and its maritime trading partners better protect the global shipping industry by facilitating the implementation of security improvements in ports around the world. The Coast Guard plans to begin the program with visits to countries this summer and fall.

"Shipping is a global industry and the economy of nearly every nation relies on overseas trade," said Adm. Thomas H. Collins, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. "By helping other nations evaluate security measures in their ports, we can help to ensure the safety and security of the global maritime transportation system."

Under this effort, the Coast Guard and the host nations will work jointly to evaluate the countries' overall compliance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, which enters force on July 1. In addition, the Coast Guard will provide assistance with interpretation of the international code, as it has already done through discussions with representatives from over 50 nations.

The Coast Guard is working very closely with Customs and Border Protection to ensure that this program, the Container Security Initiative and other programs are developed and executed in harmony.

Key elements of the International Port Security Program include:

  • A traveling team that will visit approximately 45 countries each year
  • International Port Security Liaison Officers that will be stationed around the world to share information on best practices and to provide assistance to the traveling team.

The traveling team and liaison officers will:

  • Meet with appropriate national authorities to discuss the nation's maritime security regime and its interpretation and implementation of the international code.
  • Jointly visit representative ports within the country to view implementation
  • Jointly verify with the host nation the effectiveness of the country's approval process for port facility and vessel security assessments and plans required under the international code.
  • Provide technical assistance as necessary to assist countries with compliance
  • Share information about best practices, both from within the country and around the world

The Coast Guard will use the information gained from these visits to improve our own security practices and to determine if additional security precautions will be required for vessels arriving in the United States from other countries.

Vessels that make port calls at countries that are not participants or that are not in compliance with the requirements of the international code could be delayed when attempting to enter a U.S. port as a result of additional enforcement actions.

The enforcement actions could include:

  • Boarding the vessel at sea prior to entry into port
  • Controlling the vessel's movement with armed escorts
  • Conducting a comprehensive security inspection at the dock or at sea
  • Denying entry into U.S. waters

These measures will remain in place until the country demonstrates compliance.

The Coast Guard is inviting officials from other nations for reciprocal visits to the United States and select ports to observe the Coast Guard's procedures for implementing the international code.

This program is part of efforts within the Department of Homeland Security to develop and enhance international partnerships in order to create a more secure global shipping community. These include U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Container Security Initiative (CSI).

CSI and this new Coast Guard program will complement each other.  Under CSI, CBP has stationed officers in 18 major foreign ports, and is working side-by-side with foreign customs authorities to identify and target cargo containers that could present a potential risk for terrorism.  The foreign customs authorities then inspect those containers for possible terrorist weapons before the containers are placed on ships bound for the United States.  CBP officers observe these inspections.  The International Port Security Program will focus on improving the security of the vessels and port facilities that transport, stow, and handle cargo and people, including CSI containers.

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