Numerous federal, state, and local agencies as well as many private-sector businesses and organizations have a vested interest in any matters affecting the security of U.S. ports and therefore should, and do, share in the responsibility for upgrading and maintaining port security. Several federal agencies have legal obligations, in fact, under both federal and state laws, to secure various elements of port operations. In addition, state governors as well as the mayors of cities both large and small throughout the United States have the responsibility for protecting their constituents’ lives and property through various agencies. Finally, the owners and operators of ships, small craft, and other vessels, and of port facilities, are both legally and morally responsible for the security of their employees and property. Any plan for “securing” a port, therefore, must consider the equities of all of these and numerous other “stakeholders” in the local community.
Current federal maritime security regulations – which were enacted in support of the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002 and are spelled out in Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations – designate the U.S. Coast Guard’s Captains of the The regulations require that committee members be selected from federal and local government entities, law-enforcement organizations, the maritime industries, and other port stakeholders Port as the Federal Maritime Security Coordinators for their respective areas in port cities throughout the country. The key word in that title is coordinator. The Captain of the Port does not command the other port-security stakeholders; he or she coordinates their efforts to effectively and efficiently minimize the security risks within the port. It must be clearly understood that, when it comes to securing U.S. ports, no single agency is in charge and no single agency has all of the resources needed to protect the port, by itself, against all possible dangers that threaten the security of that port. Instead, the authorities and capabilities of all port-security stakeholders must be combined in a unity of effort to properly secure the port. The Area Maritime Security Committee provides the organizational framework needed to achieve that unity of effort. Common Interests and Overlapping Responsibilities The Area Maritime Security Committees were established by the MTSA and, in the words of the supporting maritime security regulations, are required to have no fewer than seven members “having an interest in the security of the area.” According to the same regulations, the Area Committee has six primary responsibilities, as follows:
- Identify critical port infrastructure and operations;
- Identify risks;
- Determine mitigation strategies and implementation methods;
- Develop the process needed for continual evaluations of port security;
- Provide advice to and assist the Captain of the Port in developing an Area Maritime Security Plan; and
- Serve as a link for communicating information, to appropriate port stakeholders, about potential threats as well as changes in maritime-security levels and other security information.
The regulations also require that committee members be selected from federal, territorial, tribal, state, and local government entities as well as from law-enforcement and security organizations, the maritime industries, and other port stakeholders. Area Maritime Security Committees now have been established in every Captain of the Port Area within the United States and U.S. territories. Development of the Area Maritime Security Plan is one of the most critical functions of the area committees. According to the MTSA, the Area Plan should, among other things, establish the procedures needed to adequately “deter a transportation security incident … to the maximum extent practicable.” The MTSA also requires the Area Plan to consider “the use of public/private partnerships to enforce security within security zones, shoreside protection alternatives, and the environmental, public safety, and relative effectiveness of such alternatives.” The partnership concept mandated by the MTSA was reinforced significantly by enactment of the Safe Port Act of 2006, which calls for the establishment of Interagency Operational Centers for Port Security – which must include representatives from appropriate federal, state, and local agencies as well as members of the Area Maritime Security Committees and other public and private-sector stakeholders. The end result is a three-pronged legislative foundation to secure U.S. ports under which the Area Committees provide the forum, the Area Plans provide the methods, and the Operational Centers provide the means for achieving the unity of effort required from all of the stakeholders possessing a vested interest in the security of the nation’s port system.
Christopher Doane and Dr. Joseph DiRenzo III are retired Coast Guard officers and visiting fellows at the Joint Forces Staff College. Both of them have written extensively on maritime security issues. Any opinions expressed in the preceding article represent their own views and are not necessarily the official views of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Joseph DiRenzo III
Dr. Joseph DiRenzo III is a retired Coast Guard officer. He's visiting fellows at the Joint Forces Staff College. He has written extensively on maritime security issues. Any opinions expressed in the preceding article represent their own views and are not necessarily the official views of the U.S. Coast Guard.