Friday, October 31, 2008

USCG/CBP Joint Command Centers

One of the key Maritime Security issues of particular interest to the NMSAC was the implementation of the USCG/CBP Joint Command Centers. At our September meeting CAPTAIN Scott LaRochelle, head of the Office of Shore Forces at CG HQ (CG-741, for those of you who get off on the numbering scheme), provided the committee a breakdown of the CG's efforts to date (you can see his official presentation here)

Identified as the Interagency Operation Centers/Command 21 (or IOC/C21 for you acronym types), the initiative has identified several current gaps that exist with the current state of Sector Command Centers (Basic awareness of vessel activities near vulnerable port and coastal infrastructure, Systems linking ever-increasing volume of information with vessels to help determine threat and develop the correct course of action, Infrastructure for effective information sharing and joint operations with port partners).

Ultimately, the IOC/C21 initiative will provide three distinct areas of new capability:
  1. Robust information management tools to improve interagency coordination, enhance situational awareness, and automate anomaly detection;
  2. Facilities to accommodate port partners, host daily coordination activities, and provide space for surge ops, and;
  3. An adaptable sensor network to actively monitor critical port and coastal infrastructure & waterways

the NMSAC was curious as to what the difference between this initiative and all of the state and local "Fusion Centers" that are popping up (especially those that are being funded with Homeland Security and Port Security Grant Money). CAPT LaRochelle provided a paper to help explain the difference.

From the Paper:

"The purpose of the IOC is to improve unity of effort among all Federal,
State and local stakeholders in critical port areas by organizing, coordinating,
and managing operational planning, mission execution, and resource allocation.
The goal of this coordination is to create “operational fusion,” e.g. the effective shared execution of mission related activities."


"The [State and Major Urban Area Fusion Centers] SFC collects, organizes, focuses, combines and disseminates information from a number of classified and unclassified information resources to detect terrorist and illegal activities. The National Strategy for Information Sharing (NSIS) describes SFCs as the primary focal point within the state and local environment for the receipt and sharing of terrorism-related information, homeland security information and law enforcement information related to terrorism. The SFCs will customize federally supplied information to meet State needs."

The Paper goes into much more greater detail, but the gist of it is the the IOC is an operational coordination entity while the SFC is being considered an information collection and dissemination entity.

The changing face of NMSAC

I've been reading a wonderful new book, groundswell; winning in a world transformed by social technologies. It's really opening my eyes to how methodical you need to be when implementing a web 2.0 or social networking environment, I highly recommend it.

You should also head over to An Unofficial Coast Guard Blog, they've been on the tip of the spear, so to speak, in pushing these concepts in the CG.

As to our attempts here in the NMSAC, we're taking a little more of a slow bell. First off, as I said in our first post, we're governed by a set of regulations (41 CFR Parts 101-6 and 102-3) born out of the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972. You can check out GSA's really informative site on the FACA here.

In any event, while the spirit of the regulations lend themselves to harnessing the the web 2.0 paradigm, I've had to take a careful approach and fully engage our crack FACA legal minds to make sure we don't stray too far out of the box. The reality is that NMSAC is breaking the trail in regards to FACA and web 2.0, we want to do it right.

I'm also grappling with something I'm not sure is being highlighted in everyone else's foray into the web 2.0 waters; currently my key demographics are folks who are, generationaly speaking, behind the times. They've learned to leverage (or ignore) web 1.0, I don't think they fully understand or want to understand this next evolution. Is it worth our while to run full steam ahead on Wikis, forums, tweets, social networking, etc... when the vast majority of our audience won't use it? Any one else experience that?

Monday, October 27, 2008

TWIC, TWIC, baby

I'm going to start this entry off with 1 ground rule:

Please do not ask me to try and find out the status of your TWIC enrollment, I won't do it. If you need information, please call the TWIC hot line at: 1-866-DHS-TWIC (1-866-347-8942). You can also check out their website at Finally, you can shoot them an email at

Bottom line, I'm just here to give you a breakdown of what NMSAC has done to advance the TWIC effort, I am not a TWIC insider (nor would I ever, in my wildest dreams, wish to be).

So, now that we have that out of the way, let's begin with NMSAC and TWIC...

NMSAC has been involved with TWIC almost from it's (NMSAC's) inception. Two years ago, NMSAC was tasked to:

"Develop a contactless biometric specification for the TWIC. Working with the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard, augment the Credentialing Work Group, or form a new work group with appropriate members of the biometric industry, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the General Services Administration (GSA) to perform this work, applying expertise both from the biometric credentialing industry and maritime industry TWIC stakeholders. Provide an opportunity for public comment on a draft specification and incorporate comments into a final specification. The specification developed shall be:
a. Non-proprietary;
b. Incorporating appropriate security and privacy controls;
c. Interoperable with FIPS 201-1;
d. Capable of being a platform for future capabilities;
e. Capable of supporting maritime operations;
f. Suitable for manufacturing."

In response, NMSAC provided this response. For the most part, DHS has tried to address most of the concerns brought up by NMSAC.

A report , issued by the NMSAC's TWIC working group, in response to a tasking to provide a “health check” on the TWIC roll out endeavor, however, seemed to highlight some miscommunication between DHS and the general public. Suffice it to say the report generated quite a buzz in the media...

At the September 18 meeting, a joint TSA/USCG response was submitted back to the NMSAC to help address the laundry list of issues brought forward by the TWIC working group. The report highlights that many of the issues raised by the working group are documented and if not already resolved, are being worked on by TSA and the CG to be resolved.

What's next? A follow on WG is scheduled next month to go more in depth to the TSA/CG response, hopefully more information can be reported on then. For those of you who want more detailed information on the TWIC roll out and implementation, I would suggest checking out the TWIC dashboard, a useful tool that provides regular updates. You can find that and more at

Seafarer's Access to Shore Leave (Pt. 2)

This was in the works when I posted last about the issue, but I needed to keep it under wraps until it was officially released by RDML Salerno at the the World Maritime Day celebration last week. RDML Salerno participated in a round table discussion on the Seafarer's Access issue (which obviously benefited from the NMSAC's work).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Seafarer's Access to Shore Leave

One of the more sensative issues that NMSAC has been working on is the issue of allowing Seafarer's access to shore leave while in port. As a former Merchant Officer, I can tell you that getting off the boat for a few hours is a huge deal to most sailors. Even if it's to go to Wal Mart to get a new tooth brush, getting a change of scenery does much for crew morale.

The shore leave issue for foreign seafarers is extremely sensitive and has long been receiving attention from seafarer representative organizations, foreign flagged steamship companies and their industry representative organizations (BIMCO, for example). Some facility owners/operators have established security measures that essentially bar access to any persons not vetted by them, including seafarers seeking access to shore leave. Others have established a system of escort and transportation through the facility with the cost of this service being billed directly to the individual seafarer.

NMSAC was tasked to develop a working group to examine and quantify the extent to which the issue of seafarer’s access to shore leave is a problem and develop a set of reasonable solutions and recommendations that the Department can use in addressing the issue. At their September 18 meeting, the NMSAC reviewed and discussed the results of the Seafarer’s Access Working group:

Findings of the Working Group:

The Working Group identified two main elements of the issue:

  1. Physical access through facilities, and,
  2. Seafarers’ documentation.

Physical Access
Physical access issues arise through inconsistent interpretation of regulations and weak support from the Coast Guard for the intent of the human element provisions of the ISPS Code – specifically, paragraphs 10 and 11 of the Preamble and Part A, Section 16.3.15. The Working Group found that physical access issues must be resolved through the Coast Guard and terminal operators.

Seafarers’ Documentation
Seafarers’ documentation issues arise through the immigration policies of the federal government. For example, the arrivals and departures of air crews in the United States are governed by the same laws that apply to seafarers. However, air crew members may receive a waiver of the visa requirements for short stays. This is generally not done for seafarers.
Seafarers’ documentation issues must be resolved through action by Customs and Border Protection and the Department of State.

The Working Group made 10 specific recommendations, specifically geared to address 3 fundamental Goals:

  1. Clarify the relevant statutes and regulations to reemphasize the human element and the protection of seafarers’ rights as an important principle of port facility security. In addition, clarify which government agency has the authority to make policies and to enforce regulations that ensure seafarers access to shore leave and visitors.
  2. Resolve issues relating to seafarers’ physical access to shore leave and visitors.
  3. Resolve issues relating to seafarers’ documentation.

NMSAC Deliberations:
The Committee recognized that many of the recommendations, especially those addressing clarification of the relevant statutes/regulations and resolving the issues relating to seafarers’ documentation are not solely a Coast Guard issue to resolve. As such they recommended that these recommendations be forwarded to the CG/CBP Senior Guidance Team (SGT) for action.

In regards to the recommendations relating to seafarer’s physical access to shore leave visitors, the NMSAC agreed overall with the findings of the working group and officially made the recommendation to the Coast Guard that:

“NMSAC recommends the CG implement and enforce the obligation of port
facilities under the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, the
Maritime Transportation Security Act, and the relevant provision Title 33 Code
of Federal Regulations regarding seafarers' access to shore leave, visitors,
representatives of seafarers welfare and labor organizations.

NMSAC further recommends that the CG require each facility provide
unencumbered access for seafarers by requiring that every port facility security
plan facilitate shore leave, crew changes, and access for visitors. Any costs
for facilitating such access are a matter for the port facility.”

So, what's next? NMSAC staff will be working with the Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee (MERPAC) staff to coordinate a joint meeting with the USCG/CBP Senior Guidance Team to further explore the issue and consider the recommendations identified in the report including a look at legal authority to force facilities to provide access to shore leave.

Additionally, in support of the Subchapter H rewrite, NMSAC will be asked to assist in drafting standardized language for facility security plans to address the Seafarer’s access.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Future Maritime Security Issues

Back in December of ’07, the USCG tasked the NMSAC to identify the top issues that they see in the future for maritime security, specifically:

“The Coast Guard desires to be forward leaning and anticipatory of future trends/policy issues on maritime concerns that will confront the Department in the coming years and will require NMSAC’s attention. This committee’s subject matter knowledge affords the ability to identify those issues and recommend topics for consideration of future NMSAC meetings. The committee is requested to address the following:
  1. In the next 2 years, what will be the biggest concerns confronting industry on matters affecting national maritime security and the USCG.
  2. Of these concerns, please identify which topics NMSAC should take up for discussion and recommendation.”
You can read the entire task statement here.

In April, the Committee responded, identifying 8 key areas that are of particular interest to the Maritime Industry:
  1. Efficient and Effective Implementation of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program and the necessary card reading infrastructure.
  2. Incident response planning and communications
  3. Vessel Boarding Policies and Joint Command Centers with CBP.
  4. Five year review of the ISPS Code at the International Maritime Organization.
  5. Implementation of the Long Range Information and Tracking (LRIT).
  6. The Port Security Grant Program (PSGP).
  7. Subchapter H Regulations and Policy.
  8. Seafarer Rights and Fair Treatment

I’ll take the time in the following blog posts to update you on the status of each of these issues as they addressed by the USCG and NMSAC.

Monday, October 6, 2008

NMSAC Charter Renewed

NMSAC's Charter was renewed on September 30, allowing the committee to continue to operate until September 30, 2010. You can view it here.