The Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) was signed into law in 2002 by then U. S. President George Bush to improve port and vessel security in the United States in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001. The implementation of the Act and the Code of Federal Regulations promulgated from the Act started in 2004. The MTSA made sweeping changes in U.S. maritime security that affected vessels and facilities of all sizes. The United States Coast Guard has full responsibility for the implementation and enforcement of the regulations of the Act. Congress also established a Port Security Grant Program (PSGP) to help public agencies and private industry determine their vulnerabilities and procure security technology to improve their facility security program.
It is estimated that the PSGP has provided close to $2.5 billion for ports and facilities to improve their operations. However the process for agencies and private industry to receive their funding is taking over two years once the funds are awarded. Facilities and government agencies were required to provide matching funds of up to 25% for projects until recently where the matching requirements were removed.
The Coast Guard along with other federal agencies have completed the initial implementation of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential or TWIC. However they are still working to develop a standard for the electronic TWIC readers that will allow security personnel direct access to law enforcement databases and determine if the person entering the facility with the TWIC is a threat and also if the TWIC is a valid credential. Many facilities have received grant funding for the TWIC readers, but have not purchased the readers because they are waiting for the Coast Guard approved list.
Regulations continue to become more complex for both facilities and vessels. The Coast Guard is moving from a position of educating facilities and vessels on the regulations to enforcement of these regulations. A number of facilities have been closed with MTSA related security issues. Facilities should consider working with experienced MTSA consultants and security companies to help them mitigate their risk and fine/closure exposure. There are very few security companies that can provide the security plan consulting along with the people and technology to implement the security plan. Facilities and vessels should always check the company they hire to ensure they understand the regulations and have conducted inspections and have written plans in the past. If a company has prior Coast Guard as part of their staff, ensure they understand the regulations, because not everyone in the Coast Guard understands or deals with MTSA.