This is the third of a three-part series focused on Adm. Bob Papp’s travel to the Middle East and Europe to meet with partner organizations and visit Coast Guard personnel. It was written with contributions by Ademide Adedokun.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp was updated on maritime safety and security initiatives during a visit to Coast Guard Activities Europe in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, this week. The visit strengthened his ability to advocate for the strategy of securing international shipping to minimize the risks in U.S. ports.
Papp described the strategy in his June 14, 2011, testimony to the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security (PDF):
“The Coast Guard’s overarching strategy is to increase maritime border security through a layered security system that begins beyond the country’s physical borders. This layered approach to security begins in foreign ports where the Coast Guard conducts foreign port assessments, leveraging the International Port Security Program, to assess effectiveness of port security and antiterrorism measures.”
Within Activities Europe, a team of International Port Security Liaison Officers work with maritime trading countries in Europe and Africa covering an area that spans from the Arctic Circle to the Cape of Good Hope to improve security procedures at ports sending goods to the U.S. This post-September 11th initiative is meant to provide the first line of defense against threats delivered by the sea. These liaison officers review security practices, increase security awareness and champion best practices. They’ve completed approximately 350 country visits since the program began.
“Activities Europe has done a superb job in conducting port facility inspections to ensure they meet the International Maritime Organization security standards which makes them eligible to trade with U.S. ports,” said Papp, adding, “They [International Port Security Liaison Officers] are expert maritime professionals working behind the scenes to ensure U.S. maritime security.”
In addition to the International Port Security program, Activities Europe also has a Coast Guard Marine Safety Inspection team to conduct safety and security inspections on U.S. vessels as they call on foreign ports. These inspectors check for lifesaving equipment, seaworthiness, structural integrity, vessel security plans, and other factors that ensure the health and safety of the crew and increase the likelihood of survival in the event of trouble. If an accident involving a U.S. vessel does occur, they conduct marine casualty investigations to develop the insight necessary to help prevent such accidents from happening again.
The Coast Guard first established offices in Europe near the end of World War II to support U.S. merchant ships and seaman after the war. The marine safety duties were consolidated into one Europe-based office in 1975 and moved to New York in 1982. However, the extensive travel required for the unit’s mission drove Activities Europe to be re-established in 1995 in Rotterdam. The mission has evolved over the years, but the requirement for overseas operations as part of Coast Guard missions has remained constant.
“Our Coast Guard men and women serving in Activities Europe, and likewise Activities Far East covering the Western Pacific, provide essential support to U.S. flagged ships around the world and help ensure security for our ports here at home,” Papp said. “We would be hard pressed to accomplish our duties without them.”