June 2007

Small Vessel Security Summit Looms As Boating Season Gets Underway

As millions of recreational boaters take to the waters this season, Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Coast Guard officials are busy preparing for a National Small Vessel Security Summit June 19-20.

The summit comes in the wake of the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in which a small inflatable vessel laden with explosives attacked the U.S. Navy destroyer in the Middle East port of Aden. In recent months, proposals to license boat owners or require them to outfit their vessels with expensive electronic tracking gear have been floated.

“Recreational boaters want to be part of a comprehensive solution to this threat but any new requirements must be measured in terms of both effectiveness and efficiency,” said Michael Sciulla, BoatU.S. senior vice president for Public Affairs.

“Requiring millions of recreational boat owners to be licensed and tasking the already overburdened Coast Guard with implementing a duplicative system solely to identify everyone operating every type of boat will be costly to develop, take years to implement and will not result in a demonstrable improvement in national security,” said Sciulla.

Currently, the Coast Guard does not believe it has the authority to require a recreational boat operator to produce identification absent specific probable cause. “We believe recreational boat owners will support the concept of their being required to produce identification and it should be the same ID required by the Transportation Security Administration to board a commercial flight,” said Sciulla.

“One key to increasing the security of our waterways will be to enlist the ‘eyes and ears’ of the recreational boating public in a substantially expanded grassroots effort that motivates thousands of Americans to do their part as citizens as was done under the government’s Coast Watch program during World War II.

The other will be to clearly mark security zones — both public and private — to ensure that boaters know where they can and can not go,” he added.