TSA and Coast Guard Plan Security Tests at U.S. Seaports

In San Francisco, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the U.S. Coast Guard are beginning exercises to test port security plans. The Port Security Training Exercises Program (PortSTEP) is designed to test the entire port community, including private industry and governmental offices, with a goal of creating stronger links for response and security planning. The exercises began on Thursday, Aug. 18.

The PortSTEP program, after kicking off in San Francisco at the California Maritime Academy, will test security responses at 40 U.S. seaports in the next three years using simulated scenarios unique to each port. According to a statement from the TSA, scenarios may range "from how officials react to discovering a suspect cargo container to an explosion at a seaport rail yard."

The exercises will test communications within the ports and relative security agencies associated with the ports. The TSA adds that the exercises also have a goal of "building links" with the Area Maritime Security (AMS) Committee, which works wit the port captain and private industry to create a security plan that ensures business continuity.

"Our nation's seaports are vital to the economic health of this country," said Capt. Frank Sturm, Chief of the Coast Guard's Office of Port, Vessel, and Facility Security, in a statement regarding the exercises. "Through these exercises and other programs, we will be continually testing and evaluating how ready we are to deal with an actual threat to our ports."

As part of the program the TSA has chosen four emergency simulation and monitoring companies to lead the tests. Community Research Associates of Alexandria, Va.; Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. of McLean, Va.; UNITECH of Centreville, Va.; and Applied Science Associates of Narragansett, R.I., were awarded the TSA contracts for the PortSTEP scenario exercises.

Besides the TSA and the USCG, the Federal Highway Administration and the Maritime Administration will be joining in the undertaking of the PortSTEP program.