Results of the January 2012 NMSAC Meeting – Part II

This post covers the second session of the January 2012 meeting of the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee (MMSAC). This session, on the afternoon of January 18th, had two topics: a discussion of the Certain Dangerous Cargo Security Initiative and an unscheduled agenda item on using Port Security Grant Program funds to help US vessel operators defray security upgrades for operations in high risk waters.
In a previous post, I covered the Meeting’s first session, which had briefings and discussions on requirements for vessel guards while in port, Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA)/Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) Harmonization, Maritime Domain Awareness and Information Sharing, the long-awaited “MTSA II Regulations,” and harmonization of US and Canadian maritime transportation security regimes. A future post will cover NMSAC’s final session on the morning of January 19th and its topics: Underwater Terrorism Preparedness, the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) Program, and the Global Supply Chain Security Initiative.
CDC Security Initiative
LCDR Meekins of Coast Guard Headquarters opened the discussion with a presentation that he described as an update of the report given during NMSAC’s November 2011 teleconference on the CDC Security Strategy and mainly dealt with the Coast Guard’s response to concerns expressed by industry at the USCG’s two listening sessions over the summer. He took as his starting point a blog post on one those sessions by yours truly (the blushing blogger wrote, ever so modestly), which he described as accurately conveying the concerns.
As to concerns over how the CDC Security Strategy’s goals would be implemented and how they would affect the industry and competitiveness, LCDR Meekins stated that the Coast Guard’s goal was not only to protect commerce, but to foster it. The USCG is aware that a requirement to purchase Automatic Identification Systems (AISs) for vessels not currently required to have one would have a significant cost impact on the industry. The Service is also aware of the public nature of AIS information.
In response to industry concerns about the implications for the industry of the USCG vision of “a shared responsibility” for the security of CDCs in the maritime environment, LCDR Meekins accepted that private security was “not the only solution.” He also expressed the Coast Guard’s willingness to listen to feedback.
Where industry had expressed concerns that new regulations must be carefully considered and not lead to overregulation, LCDR Meekins reiterated that the Coast Guard had no interest in stifling commerce. He further stated that the USCG was going to try to implement the Strategy without new regulations. If new regulations prove necessary, there will be opportunity for comment before any new requirements are put in place.
LCDR Meekins also noted a change in the Strategy that had resulted from industry input. The Strategy had originally referred to the CDC maritime transportation system, but there is no separate CDC transportation system in the maritime environment. Accordingly, modified language had been adopted.
The first question from NMSAC was whether the USCG was getting the right information out of its Maritime Security Risk Assessment Model (MSRAM). LCDR Meekins replied that, as a static system, MSRAM was good for some information, but it needed to be complemented with other capabilities. Working groups would be established and participation and input would be solicited as how to accomplish this. A dynamic version of MSRAM is at least two years in the future. Another NMSAC member expressed concern with the statement that a dynamic MSRAM is two years out. He had previously seen a USCG demonstration of “marvelous dynamic software,” so the technology is available and it’s an issue of implementation. Captain Kevin Keifer, Chief of the Office of Port and Facility Activities at USCG Headquarters and NMSAC Executive Director, commented that that was an issue handled by another office, but he would take the comment back to them.
CAPT Keifer also noted that the Coast Guard continued to need industry input before the CDC Security Strategy was pushed to Congress this spring in accordance with Section 812 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010. A NMSAC member commented that input had already been submitted in several ways, including the two listening sessions and the NMSAC teleconference. A key issue is how any regulations will affect competitiveness. The Coast Guard needs to continue to obtain industry feedback throughout any rulemaking. CAPT Keifer replied that the current document is a strategy. After it’s adopted there will be a five-year implementation plan in the offing. It’s possible that the USCG would work with industry to develop a Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC). The Service definitely plans to continue involving industry in the implementation plan; the Strategy is not an end document.
A NMSAC member inquired if the roles of local law enforcement/first responder agencies had been clarified, as some had expressed concerns about their responsibilities. Captain Keifer replied that some work had been done; this issue is specific by area. The member suggested that the matter be floated down through Area Military Security Committees, where responders have representation. CAPT Keifer thought the suggestion a good one. Another NMSAC member raised the issue of AIS in the Great Lakes and the St Lawrence Seaway, pointing out that everyone’s location in the Seaway is already known. LCDR Meekins reiterated his earlier statement that the Coast Guard was aware of the concern over buying extra concern, as well as the public nature of AIS information. A NMSAC member commented that the inland towing sector was worried about a cost-prohibitive requirement to put AIS on every CDC barge.
Port Security Grant Funds for High Risk Waters
At its January 2011 meeting, NMSAC had recommended that the Port Security Grant Program be expanded to allow funding for “vessel-related counter-piracy measures” based on “demonstrated risk.” The NMSAC Member presenting the issue at this meeting pointed out that some funds had been left on the table by ports that could be used for this, as opposed to considering it a diversion of Program funds from their original purpose. Another member commented that each year, very specific guidance was issued on what Port Security Grants could be used for. The response was that with its recommendation, NMSAC had promised to provide additional information. In any event, implementing the recommendation would require a legislative change.
At this point, Mr. Jim Herrod, Operations Director of TE Subcom, a leader in building and maintaining undersea communications networks, was asked to address his company’s operations in the Gulf of Aden/Somalia Basin. The company operates eight cable ships and has two facilities in the US, which have been designated as critical infrastructure. Last year, it spent $17 million on security. Operations in the Gulf of Aden and vicinity have been significant in recent years. Operating speed is from one to five knots. Vessel movements are notified in advance, because of the need to operate within territorial seas. After the MAERSK ALABAMA incident in April 2009, which occurred within five miles of their cable route, they had stood down operations for a month to reevaluate their risk and security posture.
The NMSAC Chair commented that the recommendation had been sent to the DHS Secretary and to FEMA, but no response had been forthcoming. This was explained by the current funding environment and the priority of other Departmental issues. The only vessels that had been previously eligible for Port Security Gants were ferries and only for security while in port. Anti-piracy measures had not been covered. Another NMSAC member commented that people who want to see grant money for anti-piracy measures should use their associations to lobby Congress directly; this would be much more effective than using NMSAC. Administrative Matters.
The Committee then turned to assigning personnel to work on task groups addressing Information Sharing, Top-Screen, and Seafarer Access. This was followed by the Public Comment period. I discussed the only comments in connection with the MSTA II update in my previous post on the first session of this NMSAC meeting. NOTE: This post, or any portion of it, 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,
By Professional Mariner Staff