Carriers ask for clarity, uniformity in security rules

Carriers ask for clarity, uniformity in security rules

WASHINGTON -- The World Shipping Council says that although it supports the direction the Coast Guard it taking in its interim rules on maritime security, liner shipping companies want several adjustments to help ensure that commercial needs co-exist with security requirements.

The WSC, the Washington-based trade association for container shipping lines, submitted its comments in response to the proposed rules that the Coast Guard published under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002. Thursday was the deadline for public comments.

The group's comments covered several security-related issues. Overall, the council said the Coast Guard's efforts to create a consistent, uniform international security program for liner shipping could "serve as a model for future regulatory endeavors." On several points, however, the council suggested more emphasis on consistency and transparency in security regulations that affect shipping.

For example, the council recommended that the Coast Guard and Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, sister agencies under the Department of Homeland Security, sign a memorandum of understanding to clarify each agency's responsibilities for port, vessel and cargo security. Separately, the General Accounting Office of Congress has recommended a similar agreement between the Transportation and Homeland Security departments.

The WSC urged the Coast Guard to make it clear that vessel operators shouldn't be expected to conduct law-enforcement functions such as container screening and inspection. The liner operators said they have cooperated with such Customs initiatives as the 24-hour rule for advance filing of manifests and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, but that decisions on which cargoes should be inspected or scanned should be left to the government.

Among other recommendations, the council urged the Coast Guard not to require vessel operators calling multiple ports to notify the local Coast Guard captain of each port to report compliance with security plans. It would be more efficient, the council said, for the Coast Guard to verify compliance through spot inspections.