The Progress of Port Security

New federal regulations have whipped the port security industry into a flurry of spending and development.

It is crunch time for the operators of waterfront facilities. By December 31, 2003, approximately 5,000 processing plants, terminals, warehouses and factories on waterways, coastlines and harbors throughout the United States were obligated to submit facility security plans to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), now part of the Department of Homeland Security. July 1, 2004 is the implementation date for provisions of the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, which in most ways parallel the provisions of the International Ship and Port Security Code (ISPS)—a whole new body of maritime law affecting maritime business all over the world.

The Maritime Transportation Security Act
The MTSA creates what is effectively a family of plans. Individual facility plans, evolving from facility security assessments, fit into larger, port-wide security plans called area maritime security plans, which detail the manner in which specific identified vulnerabilities will be addressed. Around the country, Harbor Security Committees composed of industry members and other stakeholders in the ports work to ensure smooth implementation of the plans.

The MTSA and ISPS have a few notable differences. Unlike the ISPS, the MTSA extends its jurisdiction to facilities on the water that may be receiving a wide variety of domestic vessels. The MTSA also mandates uniform biometric identification and background checks for maritime transportation workers, which ISPS doesn't require. This mandate goes hand-in-hand with similar provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 and the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001. To meet such provisions, the USCG, Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Maritime Administration began developing Transportation Worker Identification Cards (TWIC) that will eventually be required by an estimated 1 million workers to gain access to sensitive areas aboard vessels and shoreside.

The TSA is presently evaluating the results of pilot projects conducted at facilities in the Philadelphia and Los Angeles/Long Beach regions, in which a variety of TWIC prototypes were tested. In the summer of 2003, the TSA began issuing prototype cards developed by Maximus Corporation and subcontractors, with biometrics added in a second phase. This program expanded to include ports in Florida. The final card solution, which will likely take the form of a smart card, will include a biometric component and will be interoperable across the entire transportation infrastructure and with the seafarer ID cards now also in a test phase. The solution will also interface with watchlists of criminals and terrorists.

The MTSA requires planning for many security elements besides personnel identification, according to John Ochs, security manager at Pier 400 in Los Angeles, CA. “The USCG guidelines require each plan to discuss personnel identification, vehicle access control, perimeter fencing, alarm and communication systems and training. Various elements of the guidelines include very specific applications to vessel, gate/yard, or rail operations at the terminal,” said Ochs.

Still, the U.S. Coast Guard stresses that its regulations are flexible. Coast Guard spokesperson Jolie Shifflet explained, “Our regulations are performance based. We have identified the security goals and largely leave it up to the company to identify the best way to reach those goals.”

The Money Trail
The MTSA's voluminous regulations do not make for easy reading. However, security managers are not only reading the rules, they are placing orders. Many sectors of the marketplace have already benefited from spending at ports and terminals. As the operators of facilities rush to meet the July 1 deadline to avoid fines and shutdowns, vendors should see continued strong spending during the year.

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