Lee Jackson. 
Defense Transportation Journal 62.3 (June 2006): p35(1). 

The NDTA has given me the distinct pleasure and privilege to author a regular column in the DTJ on the area of Homeland Security. This is the first column focusing on Homeland Security. Hopefully, if this topic peaks our readers interest, this column will become a regular feature in the DTJ.


The US is in an enviable economic position when we talk about global trade and commerce. A June 3, 2003 Congressional Subcommittee Background Report states, “Annually the Maritime Transportation System handles more than two billion tons of freight, three billion tons of oil, more than 134 million ferry passengers, and more than seven million cruise ships passengers. Approximately 7,500 foreign ships, manned by 200,000 foreign sailors, enter US ports every year to offload approximately six million truck-size cargo containers onto US docks.” (1) If those numbers don’t get your interest, let me add that these numbers are also expected to more than double in the next 20 years. I don’t know about you, but I think those numbers are overwhelming and especially when you begin to think about ensuring the security associated with such an operation.


Who is responsible for the security on our ports? With all of the recent interest generated from the media, the public and Capitol Hill on the security of US Ports and the Dubai port deal, I thought it might be useful to provide our readers with some very basic information on Port Security.


New Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) Requirements for the US Coast Guard (USCG) are in Place. Based on the events of September 11, counterterrorism and security were added to the USCG’s responsibilities. Also, on November 22, 2002, President George Bush signed into law the MTSA. With the passage of MTSA and the associated regulations contained in Parts 101 through 106 of Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations, the goal is clear–prevent a transportation security incident (TSI). A TSI is defined as an incident which results in a significant loss of life, environmental damage, transportation system disruption, or economic disruption to a particular area.

All security plans required by the MTSA regulations were required to be approved, implemented and operationally in place by July 1, 2004. Parts 101 through 106 are key provisions when it comes to the security of activities taking place directly on the port. These provisions specifically address Access Control, Restricted Area Control, Cargo Handling, Security of Ship Stores and Security Monitoring of the Port.


In addition to the USCG playing a major role in the security of our ports, the CBP within the Department of Homeland Security also plays a major role in port Security. CBP is directly responsible to ensure that the cargo that both enters and exits our ports is secure. The CBP plays a major role in Cargo Security. This process begins very early on in the process, as the cargo is being prepared for shipment. During a shipper’s initial preparation of the required import and export documentation prior to the cargo being loaded and transported to a port, the shipper’s declaration is prepared and submitted to CBP for review. During this initial review, CBP enters this information into the pertinent systems and databases and this information is processed through numerous filters, to verify the authenticity and appropriateness of the shipper, the carrier, and the cargo. From this initial submission through to final delivery, the cargo is screened through a series of fail-safe administrative checkpoints and protocols to ensure that it arrives safe and secure. In addition to this, CBP randomly conducts a physical check of a certain percentage of the cargo for security reasons.

In addition to the processes mentioned above, CBP has implemented numerous programs since September 11 which are designed to protect the US from a cargo related terrorist attack. Programs such as CBP’s Container Security Initiative, Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, and their 24-hour rule all are designed to focus on the security of the cargo and the supply chain. Together, each of these programs are not only helping to ensure the security of US ports and entering cargo, they are increasing the facilitation of cargo being processed through US ports which plays a significant role in the flow of trade and the economy. Future columns may focus on these programs.


With the significant increase in cargo passing through our ports everyday, the USCG and CBP have the important task of ensuring that the cargo and ports are safe and secure. Clearly, with the new focus and attention to port security, I think the statement can be made that our Ports are more secure than they have been for many years.

The purpose of this column is to provide up-to-date information on homeland security issues which are in the news and noteworthy to our readers. This information is intended to be informative and educational and is not intended to support or further NDTA’s position on a given subject, but merely to provide a source of information and education on the issue discussed.

Lee Jackson

Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Strategic Solutions, LLC

1 The US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Hearing on Port Security, Background Information, June 3, 2003.

Source Citation: Jackson, Lee. “Port security 101–a primer.(HOMELAND SECURITY).” Defense Transportation Journal 62.3 (June 2006)