DHS Provides Update on Small Vessel Security

The Small Vessel Threat is one of the top concerns in Maritime Transportation Security. A Small Vessel Security Update Bulletin by the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute (HSSAI) appeared recently (the web address of the PDF includes the date June 25) on the DHS website.

By way of background, DHS convened a National Small Vessel Security Summit with various invited stakeholders in June 2007, from which the Homeland Security Institute (as HSSAI was then called) produced a Report in October 2007. According to the Report, it was to be “the starting point of an ongoing, unprecedented partnership by DHS and the private sector to address homeland security issues.” Five Regional Summits were then held between January 2008 and January 2009, which also produced Quick-Look Reports. DHS, however, published the Small Vessel Security Strategy in April 2008, nine days after the second regional summit. According to the Strategy, its purpose is to address the risk that small vessels “might be used to smuggle terrorists or WMD into the United States or might be used as either a stand-off weapon platform or as a means of a direct attack with a WBIED.” It is important to note that the term “small” is a relative one as a small vessel for purposes of the Strategy can be any watercraft “generally less then 300 gross tons,” as opposed to vessels “generally 300 gross tons and over,” the latter being regulated under MTSA or the ISPS Code.

So what does the Update Bulletin tell us in one and a half pages of text? First, we learn that “[s]ince April 2008, DHS has been developing implementation plans and making steady progress in essential areas of operations to manage the potential small vessel security risk.” Second, we are told that “DHS has been testing innovations that increase its engagement with the public, advancing and integrating DHS capabilities and working with partners at home and abroad.” Examples of the second point include:
  • Working with local programs in San Francisco and Puget Sound to upgrade and expand the ability of America’s Waterway Watch (AWW) to collect suspicious activity information, the new model being symbolically dubbed AWW 2.0 and tested in partnership with Canada during the Vancouver Winter Olympics (an “After Action Report” of this “successful test of integrated capabilities that add to vigilance, improve reporting and increase response capability” is provided in five paragraphs later in the Update Bulletin);
  • Successful field testing in San Diego and Puget Sound of operational concepts and technologies “to detect and thwart the transport of nuclear materials by small vessels;” and
  • Making progress in including in the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators’ standards of training for boat operators, and in the U.S. Power Squadrons’ training materials, of the Non-Mandatory Guidelines on Security Aspects of the Operation of Vessels which Do Not Fall within the Scope of SOLAS Chapter XI-2 and the ISPS Code, which were issued in December 2008 by IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee. (Such training “will expand operator’s knowledge of small vessel security when operating out of their normal home ports in the U.S. or abroad.”)
Finally, the Update Bulletin promises “a road map for the entire effort . . . in the near future.” Stand by periodic updates on DHS actions on small vessel security, as well, although, since it took over two years to produce the first update, it’s not clear how periodic “periodic” will be, or, for that matter, how near “the near future” will be.
Tip of the Hat to Laurie Thomas and her blog, Maritime Security/MTSA News, for pointing out the Update Bulletin!
NOTE: This post may be copied, distributed, and displayed and derivative works may be based on it, provided it is attributed to Maritime Transportation Security News and Views by John C. W. Bennett, http://mpsint.com
By Professional Mariner Staff