Captain’s Corner: Port Security

U.S. Coast Guard photo of CAPT Tom Allan taken by Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy TamargoNovember was a great month to be in Jacksonville. The city working with business and organizations across the area successfully completed another “Week of Valor” honoring the many Veterans that call Jacksonville home. In the middle of the “Week of Valor”, my team, supported by the U.S. Navy League Mayport Council and Propeller Club members was able to put on our first Jacksonville Women’s Leadership Symposium. It was a fantastic day with a keynote speech provided by Donna Deegan (Donna’s Foundation), and included great representation from the maritime industry and Propeller Club. I would like to personally think Victoria Robas (JAXPORT), Liz Carlson (Crowley), Liz Miller (Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics), Tammy Emerson (W & O Supply), and Leslie Detlefsen (Moran Environmental Recovery) for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend and more importantly participate – their individual involvement inspired the audience and will certainly have long lasting impacts for the nearly 200 men and women in attendance.

The substance of this month’s Coast Guard Corner is brought to you by Petty Officer Martin Jetchev, assigned to Sector Jacksonville for the past two years and working in our Prevention Department. Keep an eye out for Petty Officer Jetchev in the port – he is sure to be one of the Coast Guard’s future leaders. As always, if you have recommendations for future topics, we would appreciate your input. See you in the port!
– CAPT Tom Allan

Suspicious Activity Reporting Increases by 100%

By MST3 Martin Jetchev

As listed in 33 Code of Federal Regulations 101.305 (a); Notification of suspicious activities: “An owner or operator required to have a security plan… shall, without delay, report activities that may result in a transportation security incident (TSI) to the National Response Center (NRC).”

These words comprise the current available public guidance in regard to suspicious activity (SA). Based on inconsistent reporting and a subsequent review of facility security plans, as well as the Area Maritime Security Plan, there may not be a common understanding of what constitutes SA between the Coast Guard and port stakeholders. As a result, actions or observed events that could be classified as SA by security personnel are not reliably reported to the NRC.

In an effort to clarify the identification and reporting of SA, the COTP Sector Jacksonville, working with port partners, released a Public Security Information Bulletin regarding Suspicious Activity and Reporting Procedures. A Suspicious Activity is defined as any observable activity, behavior(s), or conditions that a reasonable prudent person would consider out of the ordinary for the environment in which the activity occurs or that appears unusual based on immediate facts and circumstances, or an activity that may result in a TSI. SA may include unfamiliar persons in areas that are restricted to regular employees and unusual behavioral patterns such as not responding to verbal commands.

Responding to reports of SA provides Sector Jacksonville the opportunity to identify and analyze suspicious trends that may present an indication or warning prior to potentially subversive acts against the Maritime Transportation System. For example, Sector Jacksonville received intermittent reports of ammunition being found during luggage screening at cruise terminals in 2011. Since discussion with port partners with regard to including the discovery of ammunition in luggage as SA, there has been a consistent process and an increase of these reports.

The accurate documentation of SA reports contributes to the understanding of possible adversarial techniques, tactics, and procedures for circumventing security measures. Through the combined efforts to clarify SA between the Coast Guard and local maritime community, Sector Jacksonville has seen a marked impact in reports to the NRC. In comparison to 2012, Sector Jacksonville has noted a 25% decrease in breaches of security for the year. Meanwhile, SA reports have increased by 100%, totaling 24 notifications to date. As we strive to maintain safety and security within our ports, forming a synergistic bond with port stakeholders in concert with their own security initiatives, will continue to prove to be the most effective measure.

Featured image: Petty Officer Martin Jetchev, during a response to a boat grounding in St. Augustine. Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Lauren Jorgensen