Coast Guard assures lawmakers MTSA obligations will be met
The U.S. Coast Guard told lawmakers of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation on Wednesday that it’s on track to meet the vessel and port facility security mandates of the 2002 Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA).
About 9,200 vessels and 3,200 facilities have submitted security plans to the Coast Guard to meet the July 1 deadline.
“With only three weeks remaining before the July 1 compliance date, the Coast Guard is wrapping up its efforts to ensure that all security plans appropriately document the required security measures and shifting focus on our task of fully exercising our port state control authority in the conduct of compliance examinations for foreign-flagged vessels to confirm that approved security plans have been fully implemented,” testified Rear Adm. Larry Hereth, director of port security for the Coast Guard, before the subcommittee on June 9.
MTSA is in line with the International Maritime Organization’s International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code, which also has a July 1 deadline for implementation by the 147 nations of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention.
Some lawmakers expressed concern about the reliability of security plans approved by overseas governments. Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., ranking member of the House subcommittee, said there’s a need to implement legislation insisting that the Coast Guard verify all security plans, even those developed overseas in line with the ISPS code.
Hereth said his agency is confident in the quality of the security plans under the ISPS code, because it’s largely in line with the goals of MTSA.
“At our most recent meeting with the IMO, held just two weeks ago, the vast majority of nations have reported that they will meet the entry into force date and their ships and port facilities will be acting under approved security plans,” Hereth said.
To ensure that code is upheld, Hereth said the Coast Guard will board every vessel entering the United States at least once after the July 1 deadline. He said that each vessel plan will be run through a Coast Guard risk matrix.
“We’re going to ask the master and crew members lots of questions,” Hereth said. “We’ll be checking in a very aggressive way.”