The Maritime Transportation Security Act

dhs.gov, Aug 15, 2005

The final rules for the act were published and announced last fall. The Act requires port officials, ships' captains and facility operators to submit individualized security plans to the Department for approval.

We realize that one size does not fit all.  The plans should be flexible, with the ability to ratchet protective measures up or down, based on the threat.

They should utilize technology, such as the new Automatic Identification System, which will help us quickly separate law-abiding vessels from suspect ones.

And they should meet or exceed basic national and international standards so our response to a terrorist threat or attack is coordinated, not chaotic.

The aim is to strengthen and bring consistency to maritime security, without mandating a one-size fits all approach.

We understand there will be short-term costs, particularly for many smaller ports with less security experience.  We are fully engaged with the maritime industry to help alleviate the burden.

Know that these rules were developed with the full cooperation of the private sector.  We solicited more than 2,000 comments and recommendations, and held public meetings in New Orleans, Cleveland, Seattle, New York City and many other cities with a vital interest.

The implementation of these plans will complement our Department's already strong response.  Our posture is one of "layered security" - pushing our borders continuously outward from American shores. 

This philosophy is grounded in history.  The great 19th Century naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan believed that a secure nation required more than coastal defense.  It required building new and bigger ships and deploying them all over the world to impress our friends and intimidate our enemies.

Today we use this approach not to project power, but to share information with and help secure all free nations.

Currently, information regarding nearly 100 percent of all containerized cargo is carefully screened by DHS before it arrives in a U.S. port.  It starts with our landmark Container Security Initiative.  Under CSI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors are placed at the world's top seaports, where they work with their foreign counterparts to screen and label cargo as "higher-risk" or "low-risk" long before it reaches the U.S.

The process is aided immeasurably by our new "24-hour rule," which requires electronic transmission of advance cargo manifests from U.S.-bound sea carriers a day in advance of loading.  Early reports from industry show that the 24-hour rule is aiding not just security, but productivity.

The information is run through our Automated Targeting System, which compares it against law enforcement data, the latest threat intelligence and the ships' history.

Finally, the higher-risk shipments are physically inspected for terrorist weapons and contraband prior to being released from the port of entry.  Last July, for instance, CBP inspectors using ATS in Portland, Oregon, seized a cache of weapons bound for El Salvador.  

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