Groups oppose U.S. Coast Guard approval of non-U.S. ship security plans
Several industry associations representing U.S. exporters, importers and manufacturers, as well as groups of shipowners and individual ocean carriers, have written a joint letter to the members of the U.S. Coast Guard authorization bill conference committee to express concerns about a proposal that the Coast Guard approves the ship security plans of non-U.S. vessels that have already been agreed by non-U.S. authorities.
The June 18 letter was signed by officials of the American Maritime Congress, the Chamber of Shipping of America, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, the Maritime Institute for Research & Industrial Development, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Industrial Transportation League, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the Transportation Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the World Shipping Council and by the ocean carriers American President Lines, Farrell Lines, Lykes Lines Ltd. LLC, and Maersk Sealand.
The letter petitions the members of the legislative conference against proposed provision in Title IV, Section 415 of the House version of the U.S. Coast Guard Authorization Bill (H.R. 2443), which seeks to require the Coast Guard to review and approve vessel security plans for vessels that already have security plans approved by their governments pursuant to an international convention negotiated by the U.S government.
“We strongly oppose the House provision, and are writing to urge you to support instead Section 326 of the Senate version of the bill,” the letter said.
The petitioners argue that it is not correct, as stated by the House provision of the Coast Guard Authorization bill, that failing to require the Coast Guard to perform these plan approvals “would place America’s security in the hands of unreliable foreign governments and would limit the United States’ ability to ensure vessels calling the United States are secure.”
The letter states several reasons:
* The Coast Guard has implemented a robust port state enforcement program. Under the Coast Guard’s port state enforcement program, every foreign-flag vessel will be boarded and required to demonstrate that it has an approved vessel security plan that meets the requirements of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code.
* This provision would detract from, not enhance, maritime security. On May 27, Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge sent a letter in opposition to this House provision stating: “Section 415 would detract from, rather than enhance, maritime security.administrative review of a security plan, whether conducted by U.S. or foreign agencies, will not provide sufficient insight into a vessel’s security condition.”
* This provision would establish “a very troubling security precedent” that could cause major problems for U.S. flag vessels in foreign countries.
* Enactment of the House provision would violate the U.S. government’s international commitments. The House provision would repudiate the ISPS Code negotiated by the U.S. government.
* The House provision “would cripple U.S. commerce,” as requiring administrative review and approval of an additional 10,000 foreign vessel security plans would be impossible for the Coast Guard to accomplish by July 1, and would restrict foreign vessels from operating in U.S. waters until the Coast Guard had approved their plans.
* There is “no factual support” for the proposition that “all foreign flag vessels and registries are untrustworthy.”