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Thursday, December 14, 2017

POINTS OF VIEW - Towards a smooth USCG verification audit of Vessel Security Plans under the ISPS Code

The latest on US maritime security comes from a member with a number of tankers that have recently passed the US Coast Guard’s verification audit of Vessel Security Plans under the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code according to the US Maritime Transportation Security Act.

The crews had been well prepared by drilling and ensuring that everyone understood their role and participated as required by the security plan. The result was that the USCG inspection teams were very impressed by the plans and their implementation, and the tankers concerned passed with flying colours.

The main areas looked at were access control, control of restricted areas, records, checking-in stores and supplies, and notification procedures.

Access control: There was a focus on how the crew managed access control in accordance with the security plan, particularly on how a brief emergency response discussion takes place with the individual signing in, and on what the visitor should do if he observes suspicious activity or a breach of security while on board. The inspectors also wanted to see the record of minimum screening requirements being done and logged – more is better than not enough!

Control of restricted areas: The Vessel Security Officer (VSO) must know which areas on board are restricted as per the plan, and what will need to take place at different MARSEC alert levels.

Records: The USCG wanted to see objective evidence that quarterly security drills had been held and documented, port call records completed, all security records filled out as applicable for the prevailing MARSEC level and fully in accordance with Security Plan requirements.

Checking in stores and supplies: Interest was shown in demonstrating that this had been done according to the Security Plan, particularly at higher MARSEC levels.

Notification procedures: The USCG could not stress this enough during the audit. First internal (crew) procedures for notification of security issues on board, then proper notification procedures to shoreside entities of suspicious activity, breaches of security, or any major Transportation Security Incidents (TSIs). The Master and the VSO must know whom to contact ashore - i.e. 911 for immediate local response, local USCG Port Captain, NationalResponseCenter, Company Security Officer (and Deputies).

Drills will be requested to demonstrate that procedures work according to the security plan. Any drill might be chosen. The sort of drills requested have included the process for moving to a higher MARSEC level and dealing with a suspicious package – both with an emphasis on notification procedures.

Basically, says the owner’s quality assurance manager, if the USCG sees that a ship and its crew are doing what it says they are to do in the USCG-approved Vessel Security Plan on board, then there should not be any worries. The first impression of the USCG when they come on board is crucial. If access control procedures are followed and vessel crew are showing their knowledge and awareness of their security responsibilities, then the audit should go smoothly from there.

Contact: Bill Box