Coast Guard and TSA respond to heightened Orange security levels

The latest joint Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Information Bulletin “Potential Threat to the Homeland Using Heavy Transport Vehicles” advises state and local officials and private sector owners and operators of critical facilities that might be the target of terrorist attacks.

This week, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a statement indicating that it has increased security at U.S. ports and waterways (with more patrols by aircraft, boats and cutters consistent with the increased homeland security threat level) in order to keep the maritime environment secure. There will be an increase in targeted vessel boardings and escorts, particularly in the New York, New Jersey, and Washington, DC areas. Coast Guard forces are responding after the homeland security threat level was increased August 1 to Orange (high) in the New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. areas.

In certain Captain of the Port (COTP) areas such as New York, the U.S. Coast Guard have gone to Maritime Security Level 2 (MARSEC 2) in and around the island of Manhattan. An expanded advisory notice (issued July 31, 2004) includes all waters within 100 yards of the southern Manhattan Pierhead Line between the NorthCoveYachtHarbor and the BrooklynBridge. The East RiverDeepwaterRange remains open to transiting commercial traffic. Areas such as the west channel of the East River at the United Nations Headquarters have been raised to MARSEC 2. Commercial vessels that need to transit the west channel between the QueensboroBridge and East 35th Street in Manhattan must check in with the Coast Guard. Recreational vessels are not authorised in this area.
Urgent Coastguard Advisory Notice of 3 August 2004 gives further details.

The west coast of the U.S. is also responding to the heightened security patrols. Although the COTP, San Francisco remains at MARSEC Level 1, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in an effort to improve effective surveillance capability, and to provide distance in case of a blast or collision, has banned vessels from the waters adjoining San Francisco and Oakland airports. According to the TSA, entities breaching these rules could face criminal charges carrying a six-year prison sentence, as well as TSA fines of up to $250,000 and civil penalties of $32,000 per violation.

Members of the maritime community are encouraged to report suspicious activity to the NationalResponseCenter at 1-800-424-8802.

In early September, the Republican Party will hold its Convention in MadisonSquareGarden in Manhattan and extra security measures will be expected, maybe impacting on ship traffic. (For example, no gas carrier was scheduled to call at Boston during the 3 or 4 days of the Democrat Party Convention.) So, members with vessels calling at NY/NJ should pay attention to all sources of information in advance.

Contact: Margaret Doyle