To many, awareness of our national security begins and ends at the airport. Few are aware of the extent of forward deployed military, federal and contracted specialists, as well as international counterparts, laboring towards our security here at home.
A significant amount of maritime trade originates in Asia and as such the region’s security posture is directly tied to the national security of U.S. ports and the nation as a whole. After the attacks of Sept. 11th, new efforts were focused on the risks of terrorism threatening the international trading community. The Coast Guard worked with the International Maritime Organization to develop the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code. ISPS is the internationally accepted blueprint of security measures for a maritime infrastructure. Nations whose security does not meet these standards complicate trade by initiating added layers of security. These added security efforts, although vital, adversely impact efficient trade. The Coast Guard is helping nations overcome the challenges of improving their port safety and security programs in an effort to improve safety and security while enabling the free and efficient flow of maritime commerce.
Most recently, Coast Guardsmen from Activities Far East, stationed in Singapore and Japan, worked through many challenges with Indonesia to advance its port security measures. Indonesia’s program is now in alignment with those set forth in the International Ship and Port Facility Code. Vessels that have previously visited Indonesia are now able to arrive in the United States unimpeded by previous, more burdensome security measures.
“The Indonesian people have welcomed the efforts of the Coast Guard International Port Security Program,” said. Lt. Cmdr. James Stellflug, international port security liaison officer at Activities Far East. “They desire safe and secure maritime trade, just as we do.”
The IPS program conducted visits to Indonesian ports from 2005 to 2008, to assess implementation of the newly-established ISPS code. As a result of observed of lapses in anti-terrorism measures, the Coast Guard placed Indonesia on the Port Security Advisory list. The list identifies countries that do not maintain effective anti-terrorism measures. Vessels arriving to the U.S. from countries listed are imposed conditions of entry. These conditions of entry require additional security while in the listed nation’s ports, and require all vessels arriving to the United States to undergo advanced screening. It also includes a requirement for vessels to be boarded at sea prior to entering the United States, not only slowing trade, but dramatically increasing the workload for Coast Guard inspectors and boarding teams.
After Indonesia was placed on the Port Security Advisory list, the IPS program conducted several visits to provide technical assistance and assess port security measures. The IPS inspectors found continuous improvement. By 2011, thirty-four port facilities were exempted from requirements for more intrusive measures due to adequate antiterrorism improvements.
In July 2011, an Indonesian designated authority visited Coast Guard Sector Guam, Coast Guard Sector Honolulu and the 14th Coast Guard District headquarters in Honolulu. The trip allowed the delegation to observe the security within the respective ports and obtain best practices to assist with their own implementation of security.
As a result of the combined efforts of the Coast Guard and the Indonesian designated authority, Indonesia has shown improvement, as well as the ability to sustain implementation of the ISPS code. The Coast Guard removed Indonesia from the Port Security Advisory on December 3, 2012.
“There is no final step in security, the effort must continue to be advanced,” said Stellflug. “The IPS program will continue to collaborate in order to enhance port security in all of our trading partner nations.”
Safe transportation of cargo is critical to ensure the health of the maritime transportation network. This enormous step shows that progress can be made in the collaboration of security measures between governments, thus ensuring the continued mutual prosperity and safety of our nations.