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Wednesday, October 17, 2018


Efforts by the United States to improve post-11 September port security have moved to international fora. In a 30 November briefing at Coast Guard Headquarters for maritime industry and labour representatives (including INTERTANKO) Coast Guard Vice Commandant Admiral Tom Collins, Assistant Commandant Rear Admiral Paul Pluta, and other Coast Guard officers reported on efforts to elevate the priority of port security measures within the International Maritime Organisation. The strains on the resources of the Coast Guard in patrolling U.S. ports have been substantial. Immediate issues of providing physical security in important port areas have been addressed, and efforts to establish long-term, sustainable approaches to security and control are now under way.

At IMO meetings last week, the United States sought working group meetings in February to reach international consensus on port security measures. In the meantime, the US is proceeding to improve information gathering and analysis, physical security at shoreside facilities, and assessments of vulnerabilities in the major seaports of the United States. Through its approach to IMO and its offer to have the United States defray expense of the February sessions, the Coast Guard has expressed a clear awareness that international cooperation is essential to achieve a rational maritime security regime. INTERTANKO regards this awareness as extremely positive at a time when there are domestic U.S. port security bills pending in the Congress. A common feature of these proposals are extraterritorial assertions of security standards on foreign ports.

Last week's Headquarters briefing reviewed experience to date with new measures, particularly those relating to advance notice of arrival and other data collection issues. Vessel owners and agents were strongly encouraged to file advance notice information in electronic (as opposed to fax) format. The Coast Guard has engaged US Customs and the Immigration and Naturalization Service to ensure commonality of data and to reduce duplicative filing requirements. Containerised cargo continues to occupy the primary attention of US authorities. The concepts being reviewed are those that permit US authorities to extend the "virtual border" of the United States to the origin point of inbound containers in order to have valid document trails that provide accurate information on contents of containers. This concept necessarily depends on international reciprocity of document and security procedures.

On 6 December 2001, the Merchant Marine and Coast Guard Subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the House of Representatives will hold hearings on Port Security issues. The Secretary of Transportation, Norman Mineta, and Admiral Loy of the Coast Guard will testify on efforts and actions to date.

At its 30 November Headquarters briefing, the Coast Guard reiterated that it seeks comment and suggestions from the industry. INTERTANKO members who are aware of current problems or potential improvements in security measures encountered in US ports or elsewhere should communicate that information directly to the Coast Guard, or Gunnar Knudsen  or to INTERTANKO's US legal representative in Washington, Jonathan Benner.