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Maritime Regulation Post-9/11

This mass terrorism is the new evil in our world today. It is perpetrated by fanatics who are utterly indifferent to the sanctity of human life, and we, the democracies of this world, are going to have to come together and fight it together.” Then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair utter those profound words on September 11, 2001, or 9/11.

9/11 changed the way the world works, including the maritime sector. Since 9/11, those operating on the high seas have become more vigilant with respect to terrorism. At the same time, world governments take terrorism into account when enacting various maritime regulations. These new regulations cover vessels, ports, cargo, and more.

In the United States, Congress passed the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, or MTSA, and the United Nations International Maritime Organization adopted the 2002 Amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, 1974 (SOLAS) containing requirements known as the International Ship and Port Facility Security, or ISPS Code. The purpose of both the MTSA and ISPS is to promote heightened security of vessels and ports. These regulations are created to prevent terrorist and criminal acts against shipping and to prevent ocean shipping and its modalities from being used for terrorist attacks. ISPS also promotes uniformity amongst vessel and port security practices and facilitates an exchange of security-related information.

Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002

The MTSA directs private operators of ports and ships to prepare security plans, implement those plans, and submit the plans for government oversight. The MTSA tasks the U.S. Coast Guard with oversight of safety plans. For example, the MTSA requires identification and verification of crew members. Another example is the MTSA requires persons seeking unescorted access to port facilities and vessels to hold transportation security cards issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation. These cards, referred to as Transportation Worker Identification Credential cards, or TWIC cards, are only issued after completing a background check. Since foreign seafarers are unlikely to hold TWIC cards, their ability to go ashore is more limited. They would need approval from immigration officials, When foreign crew members are granted shore leave by the Immigration officers, the ship operator will be required to hire a van with an approved and TWIC-holding driver to pick up the crew members and drive them to the gates of the terminal and then to drive them from the gate to the ship.


Similar to the MTSA, the ISPS Code implements certain safety measures to thwart possible terrorist attacks. One ISPS Code requirement is to have extra security aboard a ship known as the Company Security Officer, or CSO. The CSO works with the Ship Security Officer, or SSO, to monitor possible terrorist activity. In part, the SSO provides certain security information to the CSO, who then makes an assessment about possible terrorist activity. Note that the ISPS Code only applies to ships embarking on international voyages like cruise ships and large cargo ships. It does not apply to naval ships or local commercial voyages.

If you are in the maritime business, you need a lawyer who understands your business. Contact the Kolodny law firm, knowledgeable and experienced maritime lawyers.

(image courtesy of Miguel Cardona Jr.)

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