New port security rules announced

| 7/3/2003

The Homeland Security Department July 1 announced new regulations for port and vessel security, requiring security plans for commercial vessels ranging from cruise liners to cargo ships and approximately 5,000 ports and other facilities.

Asa Hutchinson, the Homeland Security Department’s undersecretary for transportation, and Vice Adm. Thad Allen of the U.S. Coast Guard announced the publication of the new rules.

"It will be up to individual ports to determine the best way to control access," Allen said.

However, the rules require more ships to carry "black box" devices that transmit ship speed, destination and identification to other ships and to shoreside monitoring stations. Additionally, the new order is intended to provide instantaneous identification of all large ships in U.S. waters.

Final regulations will be published in October, and ships and ports must implement their security plans by July 2004.

In addition to the increased cruise ship security, other measures proposed by the Department of Homeland Security include:

  • Passengers and cargo may be screened before being allowed on board ships at times of heightened alert.
  • Managers of ships and ports will have to assess their vulnerability to terrorism and develop a plan to counter potential risks. The Transportation Security Administration and Coast Guard will develop self-assessment procedures.
  • Local measures will be buttressed by a national maritime security plan, designed to work with multiple agencies to develop a countrywide strategy for protecting ports.

In addition to these domestic measures, which will affect an estimated 10,000 vessels and 5,000 ports and facilities across the country, 2,500 foreign ports will be required to evaluate their security procedures.

TWIC system under development

Hutchinson and Allen also announced an additional $105 million in port security grants that will be made available later this year to ports and facilities.

The Transportation Security Administration also is developing a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, or TWIC card, with pilot programs under way at three ports, Hutchinson said. When completed, the credential will be issued as a universal identification for all transportation facility workers, including truckdrivers.

More maritime safety and security teams will be deployed to two additional ports by the end of the year. The teams, a "rapid response" security force, are now in place in four regional ports, and the department has budgeted six additional teams in 2004.