USCG Working to Harmonize Maritime Transportation Security Internationally

May 11, 2011

The National Maritime Security Advisory Committee (NMSAC) was formed under the authority of the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002.
The National Maritime Security Advisory Committee (NMSAC) was formed under the authority of the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002. It is a Federal Advisory Committee and provides advice to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security via the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. Among other things the committee provides advice on national security strategy, policy and security concerns of the maritime transportation industry.

In January, the committee met to discuss several maritime security issues. One of the more interesting ones included harmonizing maritime security regulations and operations with Canada. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) combines with Transport Canada Compliance and Enforcement to form a working group - CEWG. This group looks at harmonizing regulations affecting maritime transportation security and it also shares and coordinates intelligence efforts and information. For example CEWG helped the U.S. and Canada to work closely on maritime security for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

One issue of concern is that Canada and the U.S. have different definitions for Certain Dangerous Cargos (CDC). This is where the chemical industry comes into the picture. We have to work with our neighbors to determine which substances or chemicals should be restricted and how. As we have seen in the tsunami damage to the Japanese nuclear plants - chemical exposure knows no boundaries. A chemical attack or disaster in Canada would most likely have some effect on us in the U.S. and of course the reverse is also true for an attack here in the U.S. USCG also works with Mexico on these types of issues, but not to the same extent as it does with Canadian authorities.

Canada and the U.S. are also working with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on a Maritime Security Manual. The manual will be a single-source reference tool for maritime transportation security. Other countries involved in the project include Australia, the European Community and the UK. Canada and the US are serving as co-chairs of this working group and expect to have a working draft for consideration by IMO's Maritime Safety Committee very soon.

It is great to see these international working groups working together and combining their efforts. It can only help to make sure that we are all safer and better protected.

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