On July 1, 2004, the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code and the U.S. Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA), a suite of international and U. S. maritime security requirements will take effect. These requirements are intended to raise the security of the Maritime Transportation System in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks. These security requirements mandate each commercial vessel and waterfront facility subject to ISPS and MTSA regulations implement certain measures such as conducting security assessments, developing and implementing security plans and designating a security officer.
Coast Guard Marine Safety Office Wilmington, as part of a nationwide effort, implemented Operation Port Shield, a focused effort to validate U.S. vessel and port facility compliance with MTSA and ISPS as well as foreign vessels calling on U.S. ports. In the Wilmington Captain of the Port area of responsibility, 37 U.S. vessels and 35 port facilities were required to submit security plans for review no later than December 31, 2003.
These plans have undergone Coast Guard review and have either been approved are in their final stages of review for approval. All vessel and facility operators are expected to operate under the safeguards of their approved or submitted plans on July 1. Operators who fail to comply with the terms of their security plans will be ordered by the Coast Guard Captain of the Port to cease operations until they do comply with the requirements. Violators also face stiff civil penalties for non-compliance.
All foreign vessels subject to the ISPS requirements will also be checked for their compliance. Those failing to comply will not be allowed to enter U.S. ports. Marine Inspectors from Marine Safety Office Wilmington verify approximately 7 to 10 foreign vessel arrivals per week.
Widespread compliance is attributable to the proactive efforts of the local port community working closely with the Coast Guard. Implementation of these security requirements is a major U. S. and international initiative to secure the Maritime Transportation System in North Carolina and worldwide.