Better Dialogue Improves Maritime Security
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 2004 U.S. maritime security has improved since 9/11 because of better dialogue between government agencies and emergency first responders and heightened scrutiny of vessel shipments, the Coast Guard's chief of port security told a House committee Aug. 25.
In testimony before a House Coast Guard Maritime and Transportation Subcommittee here, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Larry Hereth said communications between the Coast Guard and New York City agencies at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks "was probably one of the better systems in the country."
Since 9/11, Hereth observed, "there's been a tremendous focus on communications development and capability" between the Coast Guard and local first responders nationwide.
And much has been accomplished "to ensure that all first-responders can, in fact, communicate," the admiral pointed out. He noted communication was a key topic and focus among maritime security committees set up across the country since 9/11.
Establishing networked communications between government, state and local agencies, Hereth explained, "underlies a good, effective and efficient response" system for emergencies caused by potential terrorist attacks.
The admiral also noted there have "been a lot of equipment purchases to foster" improved communications since 9/11.
Another component of today's improved maritime security involves the presence of U.S. Customs agents at major foreign ports to screen container shipments bound for the United States, Hereth noted.
The agents "generally do not inspect the containers as they are being loaded or stuffed," the admiral explained, noting that they "screen containers and look for anomalies" while inspecting boxes, as needed.
Hereth said there are plans to expand the shipping-container screening program from 20 foreign ports to 40 ports by the end of the year.
Customs agents have also developed relationships with "trusted" shippers, the admiral noted, in order to "know before a container arrives on your terminal where it's coming from (and) who it's coming from."
And most of the world's shipping companies, Hereth remarked, have agreed to follow established security rules for cargo earmarked for the United States.