Results of the April 12-13 Meeting of NMSAC – Part 1

The US Government having been kept in business for another week, the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee (NMSAC) started a two-day meeting on April 12th. The agenda previously discussed was modified such that the day started with the discussion of Seafarer Access Shore Leave Policy, originally scheduled for the afternoon, followed by a briefing on the results of the Certain Dangerous Cargoes Workgroup, which had been slotted for Wednesday. A briefing on the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) Pilot Program, a previously unscheduled discussion of the future of the Maritime Critical Infrastructure Committee, and a discussion of the maritime security aspects of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 rounded out the morning, After the scheduled working lunch discussing Reauthorization of the SAFE Port Act, the full NMSAC heard a report from its TWIC Working Group on its members’ concerns, followed by a credentialed mariner’s presentation on Seafarer Second Amendment Rights. At that point, the Committee adjourned to go into working sessions, leaving a briefing on Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) and Information Sharing (IS), originally scheduled for the morning, to be heard on Wednesday. On Wednesday, the NMSAC heard the delayed briefing on MDA and IS, as well as a presentation, not listed in the draft agenda, on Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs) in other industries. It then passed two Resolutions and a Motion and agreed on Agenda items for the next meeting, before going into Executive Session to discuss communications between the industry and the federal government. (The Committee has agreed on tentative dates for the next two NMSAC meetings before formally convening in the morning and a schedule briefing on Interagency Operations centers was cancelled).
Seafarer Access to Shore at MTSA-Regulated Facilities
The NMSAC Seafarer Access Shore Leave Policy Working Group reported on its recent teleconference, in which over 20 industry representatives participated. The Coast had requested NMSAC to assist in clarifying three terms used in section 811 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, which requires every facility regulated under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA) to provide a system for seafarers’ timely, no-cost access to and from their vessel at that facility at no cost. The three terms needing clarification are “system,” “timely,” and “at no cost to the individual.”
The teleconference produced a variety of comments, such as that the Coast Guard should focus on procedures and policy, but not prescribe a specific policy, which should be up to the terminal to determine. In difficult cases, the Captain of the Port should establish a dialogue with the facility and the vessel. “Timely” should take into account issues of the vessel’s schedule, including arrival and departure times and operations while at the facility. Facilities should be permitted to provide scheduled service for shore access between specified times, with allowance for unscheduled service at other times. “No cost” should be a matter for the facility and ship owner to work out. Others felt that the transportation fees for mariners should be part of the facility tariff—a terminal’s standard practice. Many comments were directed at the 1-to-5 escort ratio. It was suggested that facilities be provided guidance on muster areas in which mariners would gather while awaiting transport. Any Coast Guard implementation of the statutory provision should provide specificity, but should not be rigid.
Questions from NMSAC members elicited that the shore access issue was not as much of a problem as it had been a few years ago, but it was an important issue for mariners and the legislation provided an opportunity to fix it. A port chaplain in the audience commented that any fee for access should be part of what the vessel is charged, not a separate fee, otherwise some vessel owners would argue that their crews didn’t need or want shore leave, so the owners shouldn’t have to pay. She also pointed out that, before TWIC, mariners at many terminals had walked, often for 20-25 minutes, to the gate. Asked about the impact of the TWIC Program on port ministries, she replied that they had been able to find the funds to obtain TWICs for the 15 or so part-time volunteers who provide the services of three full time equivalents, and it also took more paperwork, but they were getting access. The more significant costs resulted from the pressure of the ministry to provide more transportation, something they hadn’t done much of before. She indicated that she could not speak to the experiences of ministries in other ports. A NMSAC member commented that many terminals around the country do not currently charge for providing access and the Coast Guard should not do anything that would cause these terminals to add new fees. The idea of a hotline for reporting shore access problems was floated. It was emphasized that the access fee as part of the facility tariff was just one proposal. Another comment pointed out that TWIC requirements had exacerbated existing issues including safety and liability, “asymmetric immigration,” and the attitude of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but there should be no encumbered access. Another NMSAC member asked about getting input from COTPS, who had been charged with getting industry input on the three terms. The Committee’s Executive Director said that the COTPs had been tasked with outreach to their stakeholders, but he wasn’t sure that the tasking had included obtaining input. He also alluded to a need to avoid stepping on various toes (my words, not his) within the Coast Guard hierarchy and suggested that it would be faster for NMSAC members to reach out to their contacts in local ports. It was also suggested that the ministries association poll its members for ideas.
A representative of the American Association of Port Authorities in the audience was asked if she had heard of problems. She said it seemed to be a problem mostly at bulk terminals, not container ports. Another commentator indicated that even before TWIC there had been a diversity of practice not only within the industry, but between industry sectors, and even within individual companies with facilities in different ports.
CDC Security Workgroup Results
This briefing broke little new ground since the previous briefing on the subject at the NMSAC Meeting in July. The Workgroup’s Report is with the Co-Chairs for review and signature, following which it will be run up the Coast Guard (and presumably DHS) hierarchy on its way to Congress in fulfillment of the tasking in 812 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010. And the briefing did reveal the structure of the Report—Background, Policy Issue Summaries and Discussions, including summarized recommendations, and Appendices with the actual Consensus Recommendations. The issue of CDC Vessel Tracking was used as an illustration. The Issue Summary includes two points: (1) Notification of CDC movements is required in sufficient time to allow risk mitigation methods to be employed and (2) vessel tracking is needed to support realtime risk assessment and mitigation. The Discussion and Recommendations on this issue are summarized in Figures 1 and 2. Asked if the Workgroup had developed a matrix that examined the quantities of various CDCs and how they are carried, the briefer replied that the section of Report on cargoes of greater concern relied on research, such as consequence studies, to develop a table comparing equal quantities of various substances in normal carriage in the maritime environment. The report considers the impact of the total loss of a vessel. Industry participants in the Workgroup provided a truth check. Asked which were the three most critical cargoes, he replied that it would depend on the port, as each port would have its own top one, top three, and top five. A question on the impact of the “emerging concept” of the Marine Highway System on the carriage of CDCs was fielded by Captain Kiefer, NMSAC Executive Director, who indicated that the study had identified key port areas, which would include key Marine Highway System port areas. A major consequence of the Report was to raise the profile of the CDC issue from “worker bees” to a level where there will now be programmatic management. The standard use of the Maritime Security Risk Assessment Model (MSRAM) will result in standard treatment across the country, while allowing customization in each port.
TWIC Pilot Program
Before discussing the TWIC Pilot Program, the briefer from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) dealt with several other issues. First, the expiration in October 2012 of the first TWICs that were issued in 2007, although people who had obtained their TWIC based on an earlier “comparable background check” are already coming in to reenroll. Second, the contract with Lockheed Martin will run out of option periods in 2012. TSA is splitting the contract renewal into two contracts—one for card issuance; the other for infrastructure maintenance. Third, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 has provisions affecting the TWIC Program.
a. Section 808 calls for a pilot program to fingerprint TWIC applicants at DHS facilities other than TWIC enrollment centers. This will really require full enrollment capability rather than just fingerprinting. TSA is working on it. They will probably use a contractor, although using federal workers remains a possibility.
b. Section 815(a) requires a DHS report to Congress assessing (1) feasibility of keeping enrollment centers open and (2) quality of services. Although some have changed locations, the same number (135) of enrollment centers are still around. The existing contract requires the contractor to act if the average wit time exceeds 20 minutes.
c. Section 818(b) tasks the Comptroller General to report on the feasibility of (1) home delivery of TWICs and (2) picking up TWICs at any enrollment center of the applicant’s choosing. GAO is getting close to sending the report to Congress. There’s no real problem with letting applicants select which enrollment center they’ll go to collect their TWICs.
d. Section 823 requires DHS to develop a plan to permit TWIC activation at any MTSA-regulated vessel or facility that wants to. Any regulated entity could do this, but it would need to have full enrollment capability.
Fourth, TSA improvement measures have been ongoing as experience has been gained. The latest involve software to aid enrollment personnel in ensuring that the proper information and documentation is obtained from applicants with various kinds of visas, including the newly eligible visas.
As for the Pilot Program, much had been done, although this is not apparent to the outside world, since the required report to Congress has not been submitted. The Pilot was designed to answer two questions: How well do TWIC readers and TWICs perform in maritime environment and, “more importantly,” how does their use impact on the operations of the maritime transportation system?
Laboratory (bench) tests and environmental tests were completed, along with the learning phase for participants. Almost all of the Phase 2—impact assessment—has been done, although some data gathering from late starters is till ongoing. The Pilot used 156 readers and the potential worker population involved, including truckers was about 33 thousand.
The draft final report is missing only a few sections. The report will not contain any SSI, so that Members of Congress and anyone they want can read it. As a result, it takes the form of a narrative—what TSA set up, what changes they made along the way, and their general conclusions. The report will not include specifics on the experiences of the various participating sites, but the details will be available to those with a need to know. The aim is to deliver the report to Congress by “late Spring,” which means “very late Spring, or even early Summer,” depending on DHS staffing.
As to general conclusions of the Pilot Program: If the readers are properly selected and installed and if the worker has a valid card and knows how to use it, the system works. Where insufficient attention had been devoted to equipment design and installation and/ or worker training, there were problems. If was difficult to determine the extent of actual problems that cropped up in anecdotal reports. It could be that a worker was not enrolled in the access control system or did not have authorization for the gate at which his/her TWIC was rejected. It might have been that the worker had reported a TWIC lost or stolen, then found it and tried to use it again, although it was on the hot list (readers do not show the reason a card is on the hot list).
In response to questions, the TSA representative reiterated that overall the system worked despite initial perceptions that there would be problems in the marine environment. The Pilot Program had not covered problems with the enrollment process, but these were overcome as time went by. The new contracts have been changed based on the lessons learned thus far. The “early wrinkles” in enrollment have been worked out, although there will always be anecdotes of problems. Problems with card antennas that have occurred resulted from the antenna contacts being broken, as a result of people punching holes in their cards, trimming them to fit in their wallets, or bending them. Regarding complaints that the contractor couldn’t activate cards, we need to fight generalized perceptions based on local conditions. It’s a complicated system, there will be occasional problems. Activation requires connectivity to the system, whereas enrollment doesn’t (as the centers can store the information until it can be transmitted). A recent three-day outage resulted when the provider of certificates had a trunk line problem—this wasn’t a TSA or Lockheed Martin problem. Regarding additional performance requirements or metrics in the new contract, the existing performance metrics have done a pretty good job on enrollment capacity. Specific information about particular reader performance will not be shared with the public—the government can’t recommend particular brands, only identify overall problem areas. There’s a specification that they all have to meet. The learning curve on reader operation turned out to be longer than anticipated. TSA cannot amend the TWIC card to provide a hole for a lanyard—the federal standard for smart cards won’t allow it. People can get a card holder from private industry for display purposes. The question of when the Transportation Worker Identification Credential would be extended to other transportation modes besides the maritime industry was dodged. Allowing non-maritime employees of cross-modal operators to obtain TWICs so that the cross-modal operators could have internally consistent badging systems would require a regulatory change.
That’s it for now. To be blogged about in the future: Maritime Critical Infrastructure Committee issues, the maritime security aspects of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, reauthorization of the SAFE Port Act, the report of the NMSAC TWIC Working Group, Seafarer Second Amendment Rights, Maritime Domain Awareness and Information Sharing, Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs), this meetings formal Resolutions, future meeting dates, and agenda items for the next meeting.
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By Professional Mariner Staff