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Marine security act finalized, Alaska ports made more secure


October 31, 2003
Friday - 1:00 am

The final rule for the Marine Transportation Security Act was published in the Code of Federal Register Oct. 22. According the a USCG news release, these regulations significantly strengthen the security of our ports by requiring preventative security measures and plans to deter threats and provide a framework for response in the event of an attack. The requirements have a wide reaching affect for Alaska ports, facilities and vessels.

By requiring completion of security assessments, development of security plans, and implementation of security measures and procedures, these regulations will reduce the risk and mitigate the exposure of our ports and waterways to terrorist activity. Developed using risk-based methodology, the security regulations focus on those sectors of maritime industry that have a higher risk of involvement in a transportation security incident, including various tank vessels, barges, large passenger vessels, cargo vessels, towing vessels offshore oil and gas platforms, and port facilities that handle certain kinds of dangerous cargo or service the vessels listed above.

The regulations require security measures that have three scalable security levels. Depending on security needs, measures may include passenger, vehicle and baggage screening procedures; security patrols; establishing restricted areas; personnel identification procedures; access control measures; and/or installation of surveillance equipment.

The Automated Identification System (AIS) requirement for fishing vessels has been modified from the temporary interim rule. Many vessel operators had questions about the costs of installing such systems. To ease the immediate cost burden on industry, the Coast Guard amended the AIS requirement so that only SOLAS certificated fishing vessels over 300 gross tons and small passenger vessels certificated to carry over 150 passengers must carry an AIS. The AIS system must be installed on qualified vessels by December 2004.

However, the Coast Guard will be evaluating approaches with better cost-benefit rationale for all vessels operating in U.S. waters to carry AIS and will be soliciting additional public comment regarding costs and possible alternatives.

In the final rule, the Coast Guard clarified the requirements, reiterating that ferries and other passenger vessels will not be required to implement "airport-like" passenger screening and that other procedures will be permitted, including increased security patrols and monitoring as well as random screenings of persons, baggage, and vehicles.

Security plans are required for all vessels and facilities, with minor exceptions. Alaska facilities and ports must submit a security plan to the local Coast Guard Captain of the Port for review by Dec. 31, 2003. Approved plans must be in place by July 1, 2004.

To promote innovation and flexibility, the Department of Homeland Security is also encouraging the private sector to develop acceptable alternatives to accommodate specific security measures. Alternatives that afford a level of security equal to the original regulation may be presented by individual industry entities.

The full text of the final rules can be found at the Government Printing Office website  or the  U.S. Coast Guard Port Security Directorate website.



Source of News Release:

United States Coast Guard
Web Site


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