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What Chiefs Need To Know About...Port Security

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 72 Issue: 11 Dated: November 2005 Pages: 56-61
Betty P. Kelepecz
Date Published
November 2005
6 pages
This article highlights maritime port security, operational structures, regulation, challenges, and solutions.
The article first classifies U.S. ports based on the major business performed or facilities available. These are commercial or cargo ports, which encourage and support the transportation of commodities into and out of the port; strategic seaports, which are designated to accommodate U.S. Department of Defense cargo shipments to support contingencies and house strategic defense Department facilities and operations; recreational ports, which support recreational vessel and commercial fishing use; and cruise and ferry ports, which support these industries. The article then describes the basic law enforcement structures used to police ports, followed by a description of the agencies responsible for regulating ports and waterways. The primary agency responsible for overall national maritime and port security is the U.S. Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. The article next explains provisions of the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA), which are intended to protect the Nation's ports and waterways from a terrorist attack. In recent years, the primary law enforcement concern has become the smuggling of weapons, potential terrorists, and contraband into the ports in support of terrorist activities. With this change in focus, new methods to ensure port security have become necessary. The U.S. Coast Guard has mandated the development of joint harbor operation centers, known as Sector Command Centers-Joint, throughout the country. The centers are designed to leverage and integrate technologies and resources of local, State, and Federal entities to enhance port security. A key component of such cooperation is the sharing of data on port environments and related activities. Knowledge of port security better prepares all law enforcement executives to respond to the implications of port-related terrorist attacks.