The Coast Guard remains at its highest state of alert and readiness since World War II, following the president?s authorized military action against the terrorist regime in Afghanistan.
"Coast Guard air and sea patrols are keeping a watchful eye on all vessel movements around the clock in many of the more than 300 ports and 88,000 miles of U.S. coast and shoreline," said Lt. Cmdr. Brendan McPherson, a spokesman for the Coast Guard Atlantic Area command in Portsmouth.
Ports from Boston to Texas are under tighter security than they have been in more than fifty years. The Coast Guard has stepped up both the frequency and vigilance of its armed patrols, which were significantly increased just hours after the World Trade Center
and Pentagon attacks Sept. 11.
"As the lead agency in providing domestic security in the maritime domain, the Coast Guard will sustain a heightened level of vigilance in America's ports and waterways as long as necessary," McPherson said.
While ports remain open, Coast Guard Captains of the Port are carefully screening all vessels entering U.S. ports, inspecting cargo manifests and crew lists. The COTPs have also been enforcing 72 security zones that
have been put in place to protect critical port facilities, U.S. naval vessels and ships carrying hazardous cargo.In a temporary rule established Thursday, most commercial vessels entering any U.S. port are now required to provide 96-hour advance notification to the Coast Guard. On a case-by-case basis, armed Coast Guard boarding teams for inspection prior to entry are boarding these vessels.
Armed boarding teams and escorts are also being provided for cruise ships entering and leaving the ports of Hampton Roads, Port Everglades and Miami, Fla., and in ports in Hawaii and California.
Approximately 2,700 Coast Guard reservists have been recalled to active duty and are augmenting thousands more active duty members conducting security patrols along America?s ports and waterways.
A detachment from Port Security Unit 311, a reserve unit based in San Pedro, Calif., departed March Air Force Base and deployed overseas to provide waterside security and maritime force protection in support of the Department of Defense. The destination of the 45-member unit is being withheld for national security reasons.
PSU 311 is a deployable unit organized for sustained operations to support military missions worldwide. Members of PSU 311 train in specialized combat; weapons and boat skills to ensure the requirements of its missions are met.
PSU 311, which patrolled the Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors with other Coast Guard assets immediately following the events of Sept. 11, was one four Port Security Units to be used for the first time to provide port security within the United States.
PSUs have previously been called to active duty for service in the Persian Gulf War and Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti, and two of the Coast Guard?s PSU?s.