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Maritime Transportation Security Act Research Paper

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Updated: Dec 19th, 2019

The U.S. Maritime Security is made up of a variety of laws, regulations, different agencies that bear the responsibility for ensuring that the ports are safe and that the cargo goes in and out securely. Since the 11th September, the National Congress has created and passed an array of laws that relate to the maritime security, including the 2002 Maritime Transportation Security Act (Bondareff & O’Neill, 2013, para. 3).

From the start of the Nation, the security of maritime ports has been of great concern. Since the early beginnings of the country development, the US Coast Guard alongside with the US Custom service shared efforts to protect the ports, waterways, and maritime borders from a variety of attacks and other criminal acts (Maritime Transportation System Security Recommendations for the National Strategy for Maritime Security, 2005, p. 6).

They still contribute to the Nation’s security by preventing and suppressing human and contraband smuggling, illegal migration, piracy and other crimes that occur within port facilities.

According to the testimony of Christopher Koch (2002), the President & CEO of the World Shipping Council, before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, “Designing and implementing an effective maritime security program will require cooperation, information sharing, and coordination between government and industry.

At the outset, the Council recommends that the federal government’s strategy and actions should be consistent with certain principles” (p. 3). Thus, the implementation of the Maritime Transportation Security Act is a unified strategy for addressing the primary issues linked with maritime safety.

Improving security aboard and in ports required clearly stated responsibilities as well as an integrated approach. Second, the regimen of security should allow the free and efficient trade flow. Secure and efficient transportation should work side-by-side.

Maritime Transportation Security Act Significance

The authority of law administration is assigned to the Department of Homeland Security and is distributed among various entities within the Department. These entities include the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Borders Protection, and the United States Coast Guard (Bondareff & O’Neill, 2013, para. 6).

The 2002 Maritime Transportation Security Act is considered a significant piece of legislation that has set up a framework for developing and improving the security of the national ports as well as their protection from possible terrorist attacks. Moreover, ports are the significant pathways that ensure a safe transportation of cargo along the waterways. Twenty-five percent of the US GDP moves via the waterways.

An attack targeted at ports can cause a disruption of the supply chain that has been managed and tuned for decades. On the other hand, understanding how the port industry operates is the first step in improving the security on land and aboard. When the Maritime Transportation Security Act introduces the new mandates on safety in the maritime industry, it was done without the disruption of the free trading flow or the maritime sector economic viability (MarEx, 2012, para. 3).

However, there are many areas of concern regarding port safety despite the Maritime Transportation Security Act being a story of success. As seen from various hearings of the Committees and Subcommittees, there were no regulations regarding the deployment of the TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Credential) readers.

There are also concerns linked to the new rules fulfilling the requirements targeted at improving maritime security as well as the installment of new tracking technologies aboard, as well as the exchange of information between the government, local authorities, and the agencies.

The sources of frustration are the inability of the Service to connect the MDA systems in the ‘operating’ picture as well as the vague approaches to vessel tracking. In addition, because of the physical decrease in the Interagency Operation Centers, the efforts of sharing Maritime Domain Awareness information between stakeholders (MarEx, 2012, para. 6).

Port Security Concerns

Security experts along with government leaders have great concerns about the ports being a gateway for the terrorists to smuggle weapons, personnel, and other dangerous items into the country. Moreover, there are worries that the ships in the country’s ports, especially large commercial cargo, cruise ships, and other ships could be targets for the terrorist attacks.

Experts warn that such attacks can easily paralyze he functioning of ports and the maritime trading system that directly affects the global US Commerce (Frittelli, Lee, Medalia, O’Rourke & Perl, 2003, p. 2).

Some Congress Members expressed concerns that the Maritime Transportation Security Act does not go far enough in its requirements for increasing security in ports. Additionally to the proposals about port security enhancement, the Congress should have debated on the problem raised by the last Congress, the problem of paying for ensuring maximum security in ports. Moreover, the Congress can also think about implementing the issues linked to different maritime security provisions set by the Maritime Transportation Security Act.

The debate about whether the country is spending enough on security in ports and whether the funding is directed at the vulnerable sectors that can become targets for terrorist attacks. On the other hand, the skeptics put forward an idea that no matter how much funds is spent on the port security, achieving success in preventing terrorist attacks in ports (Frittelli et al., 2003, p. 6).

Moreover, there is an issue concerning whether a general taxpayer should be a contributor to ensuring security in port through user fees. Port authorities argue that the port security should be a public good, and thus, the whole nation should share in the cost on security. Others argue that security at ports is only beneficial for the maritime industry because it reduces the cost of cargo theft. Thus, they argue that the industry should be the one to pay for port security.

A Decade After Maritime Transportation Security Act

November 2012 was a mark of the Maritime Transportation Security Act tenth anniversary. Thus, the anniversary requires a number of improvements targeted at protection of country’s ports and waterways from terrorist attacks. The Department of Homeland Security is the main federal agency that is responsible for the implementation of the Maritime Transportation Security Act. The federal government progressed in the port security planning by developing an array of strategies and plans as well as testing them (Caldwell, 2012, p. 5).

When it comes to the port safety strategies development, the federal government has made progress. For instance, the approvement of the National Strategy for Maritime Security in 2005 was one of the first steps. The strategy is linked to eight supporting plans that are targeted at addressing various threats to the maritime port environment.

In June 2008, it was reported that the plans were developed accordingly, as well as they included the following crucial components: methodology, scope, risk assessment, coordination of responsibilities, integration and implementation. With the help of such characteristics, the federal government is able to enhance security in ports. For instance, better risk assessment and the definition of the problem provide further information required for the needs of specific maritime sectors, including ports (Caldwell, 2012, p. 6).

Progress and Challenges

The Department of Homeland Security has made a significant progress in implementing various programs linked to maritime security, including port security. In addition, DHS has developed an array of security programs and strategies, as well as exercised the security plans.

For instance, the Coast Guard has implemented the Area Maritime Security Plan throughout the whole country in order to coordinate the Coast Guard procedures that are linked to the protection and prevention of attacks targeted at the US ports (United States Government Accountability Office, 2012, para. 1). Moreover, the Coast Guard has conducted a number of programs for conducting inspections in federal ports.

Despite the fact that the Department of Homeland Security and its components have progressed substantially, there were some major challenges linked to the program and initiative implementation. Since passing the Maritime Transportation Security Act, the challenges faced by the DHS included the following aspects: implementation and program management, collaboration with other agencies, funding and resources for port security implementation, and the measures of performance.

One of the major challenges of ensuring port security is connected with funding. For instance, the data acquired from the Coast Guard states that because of the lack of funding, some port security units are unable to meet the set standards in various security activities – including escorting and boarding vessels (United States Government Accountability Office, 2012, para. 2).


There is no doubt that since the 11th September the ports become much more secure. However, the government has stopped paying attention to the important part ports play in the transportation system as well as the economy. The funding of the maritime infrastructure and port security has declined significantly.

Port security has become only a small step in the transportation security programs. Thus, the Congress should work side-by-side with the Administration in order to enhance and improve the funding for port infrastructure and port security as well as ensure a tighter cooperation between the agencies responsible for port security (Bondareff & O’Neill, 2013, para. 18).

On the other hand, the Maritime Transportation Security Act has set up regulations for various transportation modes that are linked to reducing the security risks at ports. The regulations can affect the risks connected with on-shore and off-shore facilities, at the intermodal connections that exist within the port infrastructure.

For the future, the Department of Homeland Security should consider some guidelines for implementing security in ports. The guidelines are the following: working with national, international, and industry entities that can develop port security regulation for considering whether the regulations are to be revised for managing the risks linked to the terrorist attacks (Maritime Transportation System Security Recommendations for the National Strategy for Maritime Security, 2005, p. 12).

For a comprehensive port security network, promotion of technology is essential. The federal government should encourage the use of new technologies for improving port security as well as be a central entity in the relevant technology development.


Bondareff, J., & O’Neill, P. (2013). Web.

Caldwell, S. (2012). . Progress and Challenges 10 Years after the Maritime Transportation Security Act. Web.

Frittelli, J., Lee, M., Medalia, J., O’Rourke, R., & Perl, R. (2003). Port and Maritime Security: Background and Issues. New York, NY: Novinka Books.

Koch, C. (2002). . Web.

MarEx. (2012). Web.

. (2005). Web.

United States Government Accountability Office. (2012). . Web.

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