International trade is a powerful engine of our nation’s global economic growth and the Coast Guard remains committed to ensuring the global maritime industry is safer and more secure. Established in 2003, the Coast Guard’s International Port Security Program is a major entity in reducing risks to U.S. ports and ships and to the entire maritime transportation system.
The goal of the IPS Program is to protect the global maritime transportation system. The highly specialized team works with foreign trade partners to codify and standardize a comprehensive approach to international maritime security. Or, as Lt. John Botti explains it, “stop bad things and bad people from being introduced onto vessels bound for the U.S. or any if its trading partners.”
Botti is one of a handful of liaisons dedicated to our maritime trading partners of the world. These liaisons maintain regular communications with embassies and maritime professionals worldwide to conduct assessments to ensure that ports sending vessels to the U.S. are complying with international security standards.
The IPS Program has visited nearly every coastal state in the world and Botti recently partnered with government officials in The Gambia, the smallest country in mainland Africa. Joined by Lt. Cmdrs. Rom Matthews, Robert Walls and Edward Munoz, the team spent months preparing for the international engagement.
“Logistically, planning an international engagement with a team of three to four Coast Guard officers to some of the more remote corners of the world poses a whole set of challenges in and of itself,” said Botti. “Extensive research is conducted regarding maritime trade between the two countries, how the government manages it ports and security responsibilities and cultural sensitivities the team should be aware of while executing the mission.”
The visit to The Gambia was a shorter one than most international engagements, due to the fact that it is a smaller country with only two port facilities. Once in the country, the team met with Gambian Port Authorities, the entity responsible for overseeing ports in the country. The team then provided port facility assessments. These assessments were centered on observing and discussing security measures currently being implemented and exchanging recommendations and best practices to enhance port security and the security of the global maritime transportation system.
Botti has been a part of 19 similar international engagements in the last two years. While the mission is the same, each region, country and port has its own unique challenges. With The Gambia, the country’s government was in the midst of transitioning the responsibilities of its ports’ security oversight from one government entity to another.
“Any major transition such as this comes with both growing pains and opportunity. The IPS team was happy to have the chance to offer insight and recommendations to the Gambian government on this matter,” said Botti after his deployment.
Botti and his team are back in the states – for now – and have begun preparations and planning for their next exchange. Together, he and his fellow liaisons will continue to share best practices to better protect and defend the maritime transportation system.