- Cargo & Facilities

2/24/2015: Coast Guard Headquarters beta-testing new Area Maritime Security Assessments

The United States Coast Guard is currently employing a new port security assessment process that strengthens port communities, supports Area Maritime Security Committees and meets the requirements of the Maritime Transportation Security Act.

Every five years, Area Maritime Security Committees, or AMSCs, are required to ensure that an Area Maritime Security Assessment, or AMSA, is completed with an additional requirement for an annual review and validation. This new Headquarters facilitated and led security assessment meets the requirement for annual review and validation.

The Coast Guard’s Office of International and Domestic Port Assessment has entered into a partnership with the National Guard Bureau via a memorandum of agreement. This partnership provides a highly skilled team of 12 individuals at low cost, increasing our capacity while saving taxpayer dollars.

To date, the team, working in conjunction with Coast Guard personnel in the field and Headquarters, have conducted three assessments, with two more planned for fiscal year 2015. The three ports assessed thus far are Memphis, Sault Ste Marie and Miami.

This new Headquarters assessment initiative began in August of 2014 and is available to Captains of the Port upon request.

The request for an AMSA begins with Headquarters soliciting Captains of the Port interested in having an assessment in their port. Coast Guard Atlantic Area and Pacific Area commands then recommends the port(s) in their area based on a variety of criteria such as date of last annual assessment, any significant changes to critical port infrastructure and risks to the port.

“When we conduct the waterways and critical asset over flight assessment, we are looking beyond just the facility. It benefits the port as a whole and looks at all aspects of the surrounding area; we look at the risks and potential impact factors outside the facility fence line,” said Lt. Cmdr. Marc Randolph from the Coast Guard’s Office of International and Domestic Port Assessment.

Some of the benefits of the new assessment:

• It relieves a significant burden from the Captain of the Port and the AMSC in security assessment and incident planning;
• Improves capabilities, planning, coordination and response among joint responders in the event of a transportation security event;
• Cost savings to both the tax payer, and the individual facilities being assessed;
• Provides a best practices report, job aids and a graphic user-interface to assist maritime facilities in reducing the risk of a security incident as well as increasing their resilience and ability to recover from an incident;
• Improves understanding and communications between port facilities and local law enforcement/emergency responders;
• Identifies threat vectors specific to each port (e.g. small boat attacks against passenger vessels or boat bomb attack on a facility);
• Identifies interconnected, cascading effects of an attack on the port; and
• Provides a Virtual Critical Asset Tour, or VCAT, which provides virtual access to facilities in the event of an incident. The VCAT provides footage from the air, water and land as well as interior floor plans within the facilities themselves. This supports pre-incident planning and allows first responders to assess a facility visually, through photography and video footage. This tool has already been used by industry to aid local law enforcement in the development of active-shooter response plans and exercises.

In addition to the AMSA, upon special request, Coast Guard Headquarters also offers modified, more focused, assessments tailored to special events such as Fleet Week, presidential nominating conventions or championship sporting events. These special security assessments provide the justification for security zone establishment, and identify personnel and equipment needs, and other critical aspects to consider when planning for a large event where port security is a factor.

Some of the personnel and capabilities included in the assessment team:

• Cybersecurity analysts
• Infrastructure and utility specialists
• First responder and emergency management specialists
• Consequence analysts
• Law enforcement specialists

“When you start looking at port-wide infrastructure, there are potentials for blind spots. It can be very easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things going on both directly within the port and through the ports external intermodal connections,” said Geoffrey White from Coast Guard’s Office of Port and Facility Compliance. “We have a robust team to look at these factors and provide an interactive, user-friendly, report with a clear description of vulnerabilities, consequences, risks and capabilities of a port facility. These assessments are designed to improve resilience and provide recommendations that are low-cost and provide port stakeholders with mitigation options.”

Stakeholders interested in further information or wanting to request an AMSA should speak to their Coast Guard AMSC representatives.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.