Small Security Matters

When considering maritime security matters it is all too often the “big” problems which grab the limelight. Increasingly though security authorities are having to look closer to home – not at pirates and large vessels, but to the movement and control of small vessels.

To put the problems posed by small vessels into context there are around 45,000 merchant vessels over 500GRT trading internationally, while in the US alone there are 17 million small vessels plying their waters. So while small vessels they may be, but they can be a big problem.

As part of these efforts the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials recently gathered with federal, state, local and tribal authorities and private sector stakeholders at the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute, Arlington, Va., to discuss and announce publication of the Department of Homeland Security Small Vessel Security Strategy Implementation Plan.

The Small Vessel Security Strategy Implementation Plan outlines the methods and actions required to reduce and mitigate the potential exploitation of small vessels by terrorists or other threats to attack U.S. maritime ports, shores and waterways. The plan maps how existing programs and stakeholders will work together, and what research and development will be conducted to refine or create needed capabilities for the strategy as a whole, to implement the 2008 Small Vessel Security Strategy.

“Approximately 17 million small vessels use our nation’s waters for a wide variety of purposes, providing extraordinary economic and social benefits,” said Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft, assistant commandant for Marine Safety, Security and Stewardship.  “We have consulted closely with our federal, local and private sector partners throughout the nation to ensure that this security strategy is effective while preserving freedom of movement for the small vessel fleet.”

“The Small Vessel Security Implementation Plan is an essential part of national resilience,” said Thomas S. Winkowski, assistant commissioner, Customs and Border Protection Field Operations.  “This plan will provide government and private sector stakeholders with the guidance necessary to fully implement the Small Vessel Security Strategy and further protect our nation from terrorism and other threats.”

The 2008 Small Vessel Security Strategy was designed to enhance maritime security and safety by increasing partnerships with the small vessel community and public and private sectors in order to enhance maritime domain awareness; leveraging technology to enhance the ability to detect and interdict small vessels that pose a maritime security threat; and enhancing cooperation among international, federal, state, local, and tribal partners and the private sector.

The Small Vessel Security Strategy Implementation Plan was developed in close collaboration with DHS components, state and local governments, and private sector partners.  The plan provides a flexible framework that will be continuously evaluated and modified to address intelligence and evolving threats.

The Small Vessel Security Strategy Implementation Plan may be viewed at

The problems are not unique to the US, and the problems are small vessel security are seen to be challenging governments globally – from the EU and India, through to Singapore and Australia. The time to tackle the small security problems appears to have arrived.

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