Coast Guard Director of Maritime Domain Awareness Offers Thoughts on Maritime Security

Jeffrey High, director of MDA, says security must remain a top priority, asset tracking issues and surveillance are key to good maritime security through the Coast Guard


Jeffrey P. High, director of maritime domain awareness (MDA) for the U.S. Coast Guard offered his thoughts on maritime security on Tuesday, Oct. 6 to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, as reported by the Federal Document Clearing House (FDCH) and published via the Associated Press

His speech, which points to the significance of maritime security, is excerpted below:

"Even before September 11, 2001, we realized that the maritime domain was one of the most valuable and vulnerable components of our national security, our marine transportation system, and our economic prosperity. While many ports and waterways have critical strategic military value, the commercial perspective is equally impressive, and the challenge is significant:

-Over 95% of overseas trade enters through U.S. seaports;
-Our seaports account for 2 billion tons and $800 billion of domestic and international freight each year;
-Approximately 9 million sea containers enter the U.S. via our seaports each year;
-26,000 miles of commercially navigable waterways serving 361 U.S. ports;
-Seaborne shipment of approximately 3.3 billion barrels of oil each year;
-6 million cruise ship passengers travel each year from U.S. ports;
-Ferry systems transport 180 million passengers annually;
-Waterways support 110,000 commercial fishing vessels, contributing $111 billion to state economies;
-78 million Americans engaged in recreational boating;
-Some 8,100 foreign vessels making 50,000 U.S. port calls each year; and

Domestic and international trade is expected to double in next 20 years. Certainly, a terrorist attack incident against our marine transportation system has the potential to inflict a disastrous impact on global shipping, international trade, and the world economy. Since September 11, 2001, the Coast Guard, with the help of Congress and the Administration, has greatly expanded our maritime security capabilities and activities

...Building MDA ("maritime domain awareness") will require monitoring vessels, cargo, people and specified areas of interest in the global maritime environment. It will include maintaining and accessing data on vessels, facilities and infrastructure. It will require collecting, analyzing and disseminating critical information to decision makers to facilitate effective understanding of the global environment. All technologies are being explored to achieve these goals. Some technologies, like Automatic Identification System (AIS), are mature and can be quickly exploited, while others, like the ability to detect anomalies in vessel behavior, require a great deal of investment and research. AIS, in accordance with an internationally accepted standard for equipment, is currently being carried aboard thousands of ships worldwide. The Coast Guard currently has AIS capability in the Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) ports of New York, New Orleans, Berwick Bay, Houston/Galveston, Los Angeles/ Long Beach, Prince William Sound, and Sault Ste. Marie. Equipment to provide AIS capability in San Francisco, Puget Sound, and Port Arthur is planned for installation by the end of the calendar year. There are also selected areas of the coastline, including Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, where we are pursuing accelerated AIS deployment which will be incorporated into our Nationwide AIS major acquisition project, an initiative to achieve AIS capability throughout the U.S.

We are actively engaged in options to leverage AIS capability beyond a terrestrial-based infrastructure. We recently contracted to install an AIS receiver on board a commercial satellite to receive and forward AIS signals from space. We expect the satellite to be launched in 2005. ...We have also entered into an agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to install AIS receivers on offshore data buoys. The NOAA National Data Buoy Center`s (NDBC) Marine Observations Network is a fleet of environmental monitoring buoys and coastal stations located through out the U.S. coastal and ocean zones.

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