Any opinions expressed in the preceding article represent their own views and are not necessarily the official views of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Offshore energy platforms, which are vital to help the United States meet its energy requirements, not only are growing in number but also create unique security challenges. Using Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) terminals as an example, according to the U.S. Department of Energy there are now two offshore LNG platforms in operation, one off New England and one in the Gulf of Mexico. Two more offshore LNG facilities have been approved, though, and six additional facilities have been proposed. The locations for these new offshore facilities include the Gulf of Mexico and the waters off New England, New York, Florida, and California. This growth is representative of what is happening in other components of the U.S. energy industry. The rate of growth can be expected to increase significantly, moreover – despite the current economic situation and the at least temporary reduction in the cost of oil imported from overseas – because the national demand for more domestic energy production is still likely to increase. As more offshore energy facilities are built, however, the workload for the nation’s already overburdened maritime security forces, particularly the U.S. Coast Guard, will increase as well. The Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002 established the security requirements for the nation’s offshore facilities. This law places primary responsibility for the security of a facility on the facility’s owners and operators and postulates a number of specific requirements, including but not limited to: the designation of a facility security officer; the imposition of special security measures within restricted areas and/or for the delivery of stores and industrial supplies; the development and implementation of other security measures for monitoring operations; and the establishment of various “security incident” procedures. All of these security measures, and more, must be validated and certified by the Coast Guard. As the number of offshore facilities increases, therefore, so will the Coast Guard’s workload – not only for ensuring facility compliance with the security requirements mandated by MTSA 2002 but also for the planning and coordination of a number of security measures above and beyond those specified in the individual facility security plans.
A Broad Section of Additional and Essential Missions
Commensurate with its responsibilities for ensuring the safety and security of the U.S. maritime domain, the Coast Guard is responsible for a variety of other security-related operations and activities – including but not limited to: (a) the boarding To ensure the security of offshore platforms, however, requires transiting greater distances in a more dynamic, and much more dangerous, ocean environment and/or escort of vessels entering and/or leaving U.S. ports; (b) the security of those ports and the waters adjacent thereto; and (c) the patrolling of U.S. coasts, ports, harbors, and the nation’s inland waters. Most of the patrol work is carried out in the ports, waterways, and rivers by Coast Guard personnel manning a fleet of small boats – many of which carry Coast Guard law-enforcement officers. To ensure the security of offshore platforms, however, requires transiting greater distances in a more dynamic, and much more dangerous, ocean environment, and for that reason larger vessels and crews are both needed. Unfortunately, the operational demand for the Coast Guard’s aging fleet of patrol boats and ships is already exceeding capacity, and there is sometimes a shortage of trained personnel as well. Replacement vessels are coming into the fleet inventory under what is called the Deepwater Program – which projects the upgrading and/or replacement of most of the multi-mission service’s current ship and aircraft inventory over a period of the next 10-20 years or so. But the delivery schedule for replacement cutters is much slower than the projected growth of new offshore facilities. In addition, other work demands – the interdiction of drugs and illegal migrants, for example, the enforcement of U.S. environmental and oil-pollution laws, and the Coast Guard’s increased maritime-defense responsibilities in recent years – all impose even greater burdens on the service’s already overworked personnel and physical assets. In that context, it is important to note that Deepwater will replace the service’s current aging cutter fleet, and therefore increase the fleet’s overall capabilities – but will not increase the size of the fleet itself. The projected growth in offshore facilities to meet U.S. energy demands will place an even greater strain on the already under-resourced Coast Guard. The service possesses the required competencies, capabilities, and legislative authorities needed: (1) to ensure that the growing numbers of offshore facilities maintain proper security measures; and (2) to augment that security with direct action – if, as, and when needed. What the service still lacks, though, is the greater fleet capacity that is absolutely needed to meet the significant additional workload requirements now projected.
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.