Shipping Experts Join U.S. Homeland Security Panel

A 20-STRONG panel of shipping industry experts has been unveiled by the US Department of Homeland Security as part of a significant initiative to bolster maritime security. The US has also released a comprehensive national response plan for preventing and coping with natural and man-made disasters.

The new maritime security advisory committee announced by US Coast Guard commandant Tom Collins includes some of the most prominent voices in the US and international shipping business, many of whom have worked assiduously, and against considerable odds, since the terrorist attacks of September, 2001 to press the industry's views in Washington.

The 20-member panel includes World Shipping Council president Christopher Koch and International Council of Cruise Lines executive vice-president Thomas Thompson. Maher Terminals president Basil Maher and Horizon Lines chairman Chuck Raymond will take part, as will Houston port authority managing director Wade Battles and John Hyde, security and compliance director at Maersk Sealand. Representatives of maritime unions and law enforcement, and the oil and chemical industries will also be involved.

In a statement, the USCG said the committee 'has been established to provide advice to the DHS via the USCG on matters such as national maritime security strategy and policy, actions required to meet current and future security threats, international co-operation on security issues and security concerns of the maritime transport industry.'

Adm. Collins added that the aim was 'to continue strengthening our efforts to protect our ports and waterways while keeping them open for commerce.'

Separately, the DHS also unveiled its new national response plan, designed as 'a comprehensive all-hazards approach to enhance the ability of the US to manage domestic incidents,' whether in the shape of natural disasters or man-made events such as terrorist acts.

The plan, a lengthy document dealing with incident prevention, response and recovery, creates a range of new co-ordinating structures, headed by a Homeland Security Operations Centre to serve as the principle national multi-agency hub for 'domestic situational awareness and operations co-ordination.'

As the DHS described it, the plan 'uses the national incident management system to establish standardised training, organisation and communications procedures for multi-jurisdictional interaction and clearly identifies authority and leadership responsibilities.'

It also 'provides a comprehensive framework for private and non-profit institutions to plan and integrate their own preparedness and response activities.'