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Maritime Transportation and Security Act of 2002


To protect the U.S. ports and waterways from the terrorist attacks the Maritime Transportation Act was designed and signed by President Bush on November 25, 2002 (Protecting America’s Ports, 2003). “This act is a means for the United States to address the increasing concerns in homeland security, especially due to the country’s leadership in the international coalition on the War Against Terror” (Nieves, 2007, p.1).

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“Although this Act serves its purpose in upholding the preservation of the “American way of life” by protecting the United States ports of entry and waterways, the Act also creates a significant domino effect as to how it also impacts the maritime industry and the economy. As an initiative to deliver security and assurance within and around the American borders, the MTSA also creates a string of requirements to meet a new set of compliances and standards which in the end, creates critical outcomes and modifications in the operations and systems of the maritime industry and the different areas in economic activities” (Nieves, 2007, p.1).

Before analyzing the status of the Act we will first know about the Act.

“Making water safer: The Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA), the new security amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974 (SOLAS), and its complementary International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) strengthen and add additional protective layers of defense to the US port security” (Fact Sheet: Maritime Security Requirements, 2003).

“MTSA: Designed to protect the nation’s ports and waterways from a terrorist attack. Landmark legislation that requires area maritime security committees, security plans for facilities and vessels that may be involved in a transportation security incident” (Fact Sheet: Maritime Security Requirements, 2003).


  • “Security assessments, development of security plans, implementation of measures to address access control, security monitoring, and physical, passenger, personnel, baggage and cargo security
  • Drills and Exercises
  • Designation of security personnel for each vessel or facility
  • Installation of Automatic Identification System (AIS), equipment that automatically sends detailed ship information to other ships and shore-based agencies” ” (Fact Sheet: Maritime Security Requirements, 2003).

Application of the Requirements: “The regulations focus on those entities that may be involved in a transportation security incident, including various tank vessels, barges, large passenger vessels, cargo vessels, towing vessels, offshore oil and gas platforms, and port facilities that handle certain kinds of dangerous cargo or service the vessels listed above” ” (Fact Sheet: Maritime Security Requirements, 2003).


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“July 1, 2003 Temporary Interim Rules published; Effective date of regulations

July 23, 2003 Public meeting in Washington, D.C.

July 31, 2003 Deadline for submission of written comments

Oct. 22, 2003 Publication of Final Rules

Nov. 22, 2003 Effective date of Final Rules (30 days from publication)

Dec. 29, 2003 Deadline for submission of security plans

July 1, 2004 International and domestic deadline for implementation of MTSA regulations & ISPS requirements” ” (Fact Sheet: Maritime Security Requirements, 2003).

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“Dec. 31, 2004 AIS carriage required on certain vessels when transiting a Vessel Traffic Service Area or Vessel Movement Reporting Service Area” ” (Fact Sheet: Maritime Security Requirements, 2003).

“Where: Ports of all sizes throughout the country” ” (Fact Sheet: Maritime Security Requirements, 2003).

“On Oct. 22, 2003, the Coast Guard published maritime security final rules. The final rules revised temporary interim rules (TIR) published on July 1, 2003, and take into account over 400 letters and 1600 public comments the Coast Guard received, including the comments of over 500 people who attended a public meeting on July 23” ” (Fact Sheet: Maritime Security Requirements, 2003).

The characteristic features of this act are mentioned below (Protecting America’s Ports, 2003).

Security Assessments

A comprehensive assessment at 55 critical ports was conducted to get an idea about the local threat and assess the security aspects related to each port. The Act points out the need of security plans on around 10,000 vessels and 5,000 facilities in the new policy. The individual vessel owners are supposed to do self-assessment and consequently work on a suitable security plan.

An assessment tool to be used by the ports, vessels and facilities to conduct these self-assessments which is developed by The Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard and Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection directorate jointly. To secure the U.S. ports from dangers it has to be ensured that 2,500 foreign ports are having efficient security programs and for this purpose verification and audit teams are deployed (Protecting America’s Ports, 2003).

Security Plans and Advisory Committees

A characteristic feature of the layered maritime security strategy is the National Maritime Transportation Security Plan which is responsible for the protection of the ports in America.. The National Maritime Security Advisory Committee will suggest this national strategy to the Secretary. Besides this Area Maritime Transportation Security Plans will be reinforcing the security strategy by specifying the response and preventive security policies.

Along with the already existing port security committees around the country, the newly established Area Maritime Security Committees will deal with all the multifaceted and miscellaneous security needs of each of the 361 ports. Moreover, all ships and port facilities are supposed to have security plans as per the International Maritime Organization’s requirement (Protecting America’s Ports, 2003).

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As per the new regulation it has been made mandatory for all the owners or operators of over 10,000 vessels and 5,000 facilities to develop and implement security plans. These will include screening procedures for passengers as well as vehicle and baggage. Establishing restricted areas, personal identification procedures, security patrols, access control measures and installation of surveillance equipment will also be included in the plan.

Security Incident Response Plans are introduced in addition to the previously established group of emergency and response plans. The key portions of the security plan in response to an incident have to be developed and submitted to the Coast Guard for approval. Coordination between the security plans and the other existing emergency plans like oil spills and natural disasters will be established for better outcome (Protecting America’s Ports, 2003).

Other Initiatives and Programs

The Transportation Security Administration will be developing the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). It will be used as a permit for the transportation workers who have cleared necessary background checks. TWIC will launch a common permit which could be used in combination with the access control to vital mechanism of the transportation infrastructure of the nation. Maritime Safety and Security Teams were created after the terrorist attacks on Sept.2001.

These are a Coast Guard rapid response force which is capable of meeting the emerging threats. These are already deployed to Seattle; Chesapeake, Virginia; Los Angeles/Long Beach; and Houston/Galveston. To St. Mary’s, Georgia, and the Port of New York/New Jersey these will be deployed soon (Protecting America’s Ports, 2003).


In June 2003 $170 million was granted to 387 ports and facilities in port security grants. Again an additional $105 million was made available the same year. 13 critical seaports were awarded$75 million by the Office for Domestic Preparedness (Protecting America’s Ports, 2003).

The National Maritime Intelligence Center and other local and regional centers will be used for gathering, analyzing and enhancing information. Automatic Identification Systems will be installed on certain vessels which will ensure a complete and instant tracking and monitoring of the shipping channels providing greater security and safety (Protecting America’s Ports, 2003).

Better security can be provided to the cargo containers and the entire sea transportation system with the inclusion of programs such as Operation Safe Commerce, which is led by TSA and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and CBP’s Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. To improve the security of seafarers documents a biometric indicator, enhanced tamper resistant features and establishment of national databases is essential.

These will produce standardized and verifiable permits for seafarers. To deal with the hassles and apply protective measures and actions as far away from the shores as possible, MTSA has extended certain Coast Guard authorities out to 12 nautical miles from the U.S. coast. The natural gas facility along with the Coast Guard’s previous authority to control other kinds of deep-water ports will allow the import of natural gas to a greater limit. Post 9/11 2001 the key vessels are provided more security with armed personnel as they in and out of port to keep them safe from the misuse by the terrorists.

The Maritime Administration at the Department of Transportation, in cooperation with the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration has already begun their work to set standards for training. Through the publication of these regulations the process of influencing security training proficiency has been continued (Protecting America’s Ports, 2003).

The Coast Guard has played an important role in Maritime Transportation Security Act 2002. Following is a brief background about the Coast Guard.


The nation’s priorities changed drastically after the September 11 terrorist attack, which also affected the scope of activities for many federal agencies, especially with Coast Guards. The nation re-evaluated its vulnerability to terrorism and focused considerable attention on its vast and sprawling network of ports and waterways. Many mission responsibilities got added by the resulting legislation. It continues to be a matter of intense congressional interest to check the effect of these changes on the Coast Guards and how to manage them (FY 2003 Mission Performance United States Coast Guard, 2004, p.6).

Missions of Coast Guard

The Congress passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which focused on preserving the Coast Guard’s mission performance. The law ensures that the Coast Guard remains intact at the department of Homeland Securities and also restricts DHS from reducing their missions or its capabilities to perform them. Missions were designated as “Homeland Security” mission or a “non-homeland security” mission (FY 2003 Mission Performance United States Coast Guard, 2004, p.7).

Missions under homeland security are:

“Ports, Waterways and Coastal Security: Prevent or minimize damage from maritime terrorist attack, Conducting harbor patrols, assess vulnerability” (FY 2003 Mission Performance United States Coast Guard, 2004, p.7)

“Drug Banning: Reducing the flow of illegal drugs into the country by sea by enforcing applicable laws and treaties, conducting patrols to intercept drug smugglers, etc”. (FY 2003 Mission Performance United States Coast Guard, 2004, p.7)

“Migrant Control: Elimination of the flow of undocumented migrants entering the US via sea routes by the use of applicable laws and treaties, increased patrol for intercepting at sea” (FY 2003 Mission Performance United States Coast Guard, 2004, p.7).

“Defense Readiness: Assist and Support the US Navy by maintaining military readiness and capabilities” (FY 2003 Mission Performance United States Coast Guard, 2004, p.7).

“Other Law Enforcement: The Coast guard has started reporting its mission activities for protecting the Exclusive Zone (EEZ) from foreign fishermen that are under ‘Other Law Enforcement’ as a homeland security mission” (FY 2003 Mission Performance United States Coast Guard, 2004, p. 7).

Now GAO has reviewed the achievements of the Coast Guard and reported that “Coast Guard officials attributed achieving performance goals with reduced resource hours to other factors affecting mission performance, such as increased operating efficiencies and unexpected events. The Coast Guard implemented strategies such as using new technology, better operational tactics, improved intelligence, and stronger partnerships with other federal, state, and local agencies” (FY 2003 Mission Performance United States Coast Guard, 2004, p. 8).

Reviewing Maritime Transportation and Security Act of 2002

After September 11, 2001, the security of U.S. ports and waterways was understood very important as the U.S. government was very much concerned with this issue. So the congress brought this act of Maritime Transportation and Security in November 2002. This act made many programs for the improvement of the security conditions at the ports and American waterways. The programs were like identifying and tracking vessels, evaluating security attentiveness and a limited access to sensitive areas. Many executive agencies were approached to execute these programs of the act (Wrightson, 2003).

“The vulnerability of the sea trade system can be generally seen in the following general observations: the increasing global trade activities among nations and the emergence of security and safety threats which were further intensified after the September 11, 2001 (or 9/11) attacks.

This demonstrates how the modern world has become a venue in which both economic opportunity and national/international threats co-exist; globalization has indeed allowed the liberalization of trade, thereby opening more economic venues of development while at the same time, globalization has also made border security more vulnerable due to the prospect of a terror attack and other security threats” (Nieves, 2007, p.2).

“The United States has been active in addressing these issues especially since the country has played a central role in the War Against Terror. Not only has the country become actively involved in the international coalition of fighting international terrorism, the United States has also taken critical steps to implementing a tighter security when it comes to its borders” (Nieves, 2007, p.2). “Homeland security and federal legislation and initiatives have tackled the different areas of sea, air and land access into the American borders, in addition to implementing means to ensure the safety and security of the American people” (Nieves, 2007, p.2).

“This can be seen in the implementation of laws such as the USA Patriot Act and the Critical Infrastructure Information Act of 2002 (CII Act) which are laws that use information and intelligence as main factors in the implementation of homeland security. The National Security Presidential Directive 41/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 13 (NSPD-41/HSPD 13) was signed in 2004 by President George W. Bush which would further enhance the national and homeland security measures that were already in place” (Nieves, 2007, p.2).

“The issue of funding was a major concern that emerged in the stages leading to the date of implementation. The implementation of the MTSA was to develop through “four rounds” according to the availability of the grant. Similar to any project implementation, these rounds were made up of a series of goals which, and with the number of agencies involved, these goals also had a sense of interdependence before the next stage can be initiated.

Moreover, before these rounds, budget proposals were also formulated according to the established goals, and interestingly, a huge gap between the proposed grant and the available grant funds created another huge problem, especially in the port security initiatives” (Nieves, 2007, p.32).

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Act

Now we have to assess the progress which has been made in implementing Maritime Transportation Security Act. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that agencies, which are responsible for the implementation of the security provisions of the Maritime Transportation Security Act, have been successful in their programs (Wrightson, 2003).

Now GAO has reviewed the act and its programs and what they have achieved till now. It is concerned with its five areas and from which three are as follows which the most important issues and related to security (Wrightson, 2003):

  • Not many ports have been covered by vessel identification system;
  • Many questions are arising about the quality of port security evaluation and its scope;
  • Apprehensions associated with the improvement of security plans for foreign vessels (Wrightson, 2003)

And the other two issues are related to organizational and operational matters (Wrightson, 2003):

  • Duplication of maritime intelligence efforts
  • Discrepancy in Port Security Grant Program requirements

Summary of Areas that require further attention

Summary of Areas that require further attention

The three areas shown above in the table are related to security implications. The Coast Guard created a system that would permit the port officials on other vessels to check the identity of the vessels for the operation within the port. Though the Coast Guard is trying to execute this system, a large no. of the ports will not have this system in future that could be seen as this system needs a vast infrastructure which many of the ports do not have (Wrightson, 2003, p.3).

Maritime Transportation Security Act was a milestone in the transportation system of the US. The terrorists’ attacks drew the nation’s attention initially towards its aviation system but immediately the nation focused on the ports as well. The ports attract the visitors for many reasons except they are the gateways from which dangerous material can enter the country.

The ports are so large and sprawling and easily accessible through water and land; they are normally near to crowded metropolitan, highways, factories, roads and businesses. Security is very tight in such areas by the people who are engaged in port operations. Many stakeholders are also involved in this operation. Such stakeholders are state, local and federal agencies, transportation and trade agencies; factories and other businesses etc. (Wrightson, 2003, p.3).

When Maritime Transportation Security Act was passed it showed its interest in many federal agencies. It focused on wide-ranging security agenda that involved personal security, planning and carefully checking of vessels and cargo. The Secretary of DHS gave the responsibility to the Coast Guard to fulfill its main requirements. One of the responsibilities that were given to the Coast Guard was to develop six interim final rules for executing Maritime Transportation Security Act’s operational provisions for getting public comments (Wrightson, 2003, p.3).

Examples of Key MTSA Activities

Examples of Key MTSA Activities

While reviewing the above said issues regarding Maritime Transportation Security Act, we can discuss them in detail.

As it is said that vessel identification system will cover not many ports, in this connection the point is “the main security-related issue involves the implementation of a vessel identification system. MTSA called for the development of an automatic identification system. Coast Guard implementation calls for a system that would allow port officials and other vessels to determine the identity and position of vessels entering or operating within the harbor area.

Such a system would provide an “early warning” of an unidentified vessel or a vessel that was in a location where it should not be. Implementing the system effectively, however, requires considerable land-based equipment and other infrastructure that is not currently available in many ports. As a result, for the foreseeable future, the system will be available in less than half of the 25 busiest U.S. ports” (Wrightson, 2003, p.7).

The AIS system uses a ploy to transfer a unique identifying signal to a person who will receive it at the port and also other ships. This information contains a vessel’s identity, its speed, course and position (Wrightson, 2003, p.7).

“Coast Guard currently plans to install AIS receiving equipment at the 10 locations with VTS systems.4 More than half of the 25 busiest ports, such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami, Charleston, Tampa, and Honolulu, do not have VTS systems; hence, AIS will be inoperable at these locations for the foreseeable future. When AIS will be operable at these other ports depends heavily on how soon the Coast Guard can put an extensive amount of shore-based infrastructure in place” (Wrightson, 2003, p.8).

Currently, the coast guard needs AIS device only for two reasons:

  1. Vessels for international voyages
  2. Vessels navigate waterways under VTS control (Wrightson, 2003, p.8).

The cost is a major issue for executing of AIS fully. It requires sufficient extra investment (Wrightson, 2003, p.8).


There have been some concerns regarding port security assessments, which is a major issue. Actually, “Security assessments are intended to be in-depth examinations of security threats, vulnerabilities, consequences, and conditions throughout a port, including not just transportation facilities, but also factories and other installations that pose potential security risks” (Wrightson, 2003, p.8).

Another Concern is meeting MTSA’s requirements which is that the Secretary of DHS is willing to apply vessel security plans for all vessels which go on US waters (Wrightson, 2003, p.10). “Vessel security plans include taking such steps as responding to assessed vulnerabilities, designating security officers, conducting training and drills, and ensuring that appropriate preventive measures will be taken against security incidents” (Wrightson, 2003, p.10).

Now TSA officials are also playing major role in MTSA application. “TSA officials told us that in round three, they would give preference to regulated facilities and vessels that were already required to have security assessments and plans in place. As a result, the grants would likely be for mitigating identified vulnerabilities rather than developing plans. Second, in the application instructions for the current program, TSA said that recurring costs for personnel and operations and maintenance costs were not eligible for funding. MTSA specifically includes these costs” (Wrightson, 2003, p.10).

“TSA officials said that for later rounds of grants during fiscal year 2004, they would discuss potential changes in the Port Security Grant Program with the Coast Guard and MARAD. These potential changes would include requiring that all grant proposals be designed to meet MTSA port security grant requirements. The officials said, however, that before making any changes, they would look for specific directions accompanying currently pending appropriations for fiscal year 2004” (Wrightson, 2003, p.10).

Reference List

“Fact Sheet: Maritime Security Requirements” (2003). Homeland Security. Web.

FY 2003 Mission Performance United States Coast Guard (2004). Department of Homeland Security. Web.

Nieves J (2007). Effects of the Implementation of the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 in the Maritime Industry and the Economy. Web.

“Protecting America’s Ports. Maritime Transportation Security act of 2002” (2003). Homeland Security. Web.

Wrighton M(2003). Progress Made in Implementing Maritime Transportation Security Act, but Concerns Remain. Maritime Security.

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