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New Regulations Bolster U.S. Maritime Security

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 1, 2003 – The anti-terrorism measures contained in new U.S. maritime regulations issued July 1 are designed to improve security at the nation's ports and waterways, America's homeland security chief said.

With 95 percent of America's international cargo being transported by ship through the nation's 360 major ports, it follows that "port security is critical to ensuring our Nation's homeland and economic security," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge pointed out in a news release.

And security measures contained in the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, Ridge observed, will bolster "a vitally important system with additional layers of defense."

The act was developed as a consequence of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. President Bush signed the legislation into law on Nov. 22, 2002.

Some security enhancements contained in the new legislation include:

  • U.S. port facility and vessel vulnerability assessments.
  • Maritime transportation security plans.
  • Transportation security incident response plans.
  • Issuance of transportation security cards to maritime industry employees.
  • Improved crewmember identification system.
  • Assessment of anti-terrorism safeguards at foreign ports.
  • Establishment of maritime security advisory committees.
  • Improved maritime intelligence gathering.
  • Automatic vessel identification systems.
  • Long-range vessel tracking system.
  • Secure systems of transportation.

The new regulations key in on elements of the maritime industry that have been assessed as having an elevated risk of a security incident.

Vessels considered under that criteria, according to the department release, include tankers, barges, large passenger ships, cargo vessels, towing vessels, offshore oil and gas platforms, and port facilities that handle certain types of dangerous cargo or service the vessels outlined above.

Dangerous cargo, the release said, would include oil, chemicals and explosives.

It's estimated that 10,000 vessels, 5,000 facilities and 40 offshore operations will be affected by the new regulations, the news release noted.

The MTSA legislation, Ridge observed in the release, "is part of a broad international effort to increase global shipping security and one of many steps we are taking to better protect our ports and ships traveling in our waters."

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