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Published: Wednesday, 7/2/2003

6 rules target seaport safety

BY JACK KELLY
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

The Department of Homeland Security issued six interim regulations yesterday to improve security at the nation's ports, on its waterways, and on oil rigs off the coast. They will affect about 10,300 ships, 361 ports, 5,000 facilities in or near those ports, and 40 oil rigs.

This particular set of rules apply primarily to seaports and will have little impact on operations at inland ports like Pittsburgh's or Toledo's.

The rules are expected to cost companies engaged in maritime commerce $1.5 billion to implement, and a total of $7.5 billion over 10 years. Most of the cost will be for hiring and training security officers and installing surveillance equipment.

Because 95 percent of goods shipped to and from the United States travel by water, improved port security is critical to protecting the American economy from terrorist attacks, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said in a statement.

The regulations will require some 4,600 oceangoing ships to install automatic identification systems so the Coast Guard can track them in the essentially the same way air traffic controllers monitor the location of airplanes.

The regulations establish three maritime security levels. MARSEC 1 is equivalent to the three lowest national alert levels (green, blue, and yellow). MARSEC 2 is equivalent to orange (high), and MARSEC 3 to red (severe). Shipowners and port managers will be required to take different security precautions, depending on the threat condition. These will include passenger, vehicle, and baggage screening; security patrols; personnel identification procedures, and installation of surveillance equipment.

Under the rules, people waiting to board large passenger ships, including ferries, could be subject to the types of body and baggage screening now in place at airports. But a Coast Guard official told the Associated Press that would happen only during times when the nation's terror alert has been raised to “high,” and only on certain ships deemed most vulnerable.

The regulations designate Coast Guard Captains of the Port as Federal Maritime Security Coordinators, and makes them responsible for overseeing port security.

They also establish Area Maritime Security Committees at each of 361 U.S. ports. These committees will be made up of representatives from other federal, state, and local government agencies. Under the guidance of Maritime Security Coordinators, they will study specific vulnerabilities at each port and develop plans for addressing them. The proposed rules require that a maritime security exercise be conducted each year.

Companies have a month to make comments on the interim regulations. Final regulations will be issued on Nov. 25.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Jack Kelly, a former Marine, was deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force during the Reagan administration.



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