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Published:November 6th, 2007 03:40 EST
Two Sides of the Same Coin, Marine Safety and Security

Two Sides of the Same Coin, Marine Safety and Security

By SOP newswire

Since the attacks of 9/11, the Coast Guard has adapted to meet the growing needs of the nation and the challenges surrounding new and evolving threats of the 21st century. We have grown and taken on new missions while moving from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security. Some members of Congress and within the commercial maritime industry have expressed concern recently that the Coast Guard’s emphasis on protecting the homeland from terrorism detracts from other Coast Guard missions, like our marine safety program.

I am committed to our long-standing legacy missions as much as I am to our expanded homeland security mission, especially since marine safety and security are not mutually exclusive. They are both vital to our national interests and must be closely coordinated to be effective. The fact is, safety and security are two sides of the same coin. It is precisely that paradigm that makes the Coast Guard so effective and efficient. We employ a unique combination of military, humanitarian, and federal law enforcement authorities and capabilities to keep our waterways and critical maritime infrastructure safe and secure. Our greatest strength is our responsive, flexible and adaptive character. We are always ready – for all maritime threats and hazards.

In the past six months alone, Coast Guard men and women have responded to the call for help on the high seas from mariners and ships hailing from across the globe – from the Bering Sea to the Gulf of Mexico. Like most emergencies at sea, these situations were complicated and required much more than simply rescuing mariners in distress. They involved crewmembers and cargos from around the world, as well as the potential for major oil spills.

Today, more than ever before, our safety, security and environmental stewardship missions are inextricably linked like the interwoven threads of knitted blanket. Remove one thread and the others begin to unravel.

Many of you may think of the Coast Guard as lifesavers and guardians. Saving lives is one of our first and proudest missions, but we believe preventing maritime disasters is just as important as responding to them when they do occur. The Coast Guard is a world leader in helping prevent accidents at sea and maintaining the security of cargo and ports. Our marine safety program is responsible for ensuring the safe operation and navigation of some 20,000 U.S. and foreign-flagged vessels.

Each year, Coast Guard inspectors conduct more than 70,000 domestic vessel inspections and 10,000 port state control exams to help safeguard maritime commerce, international trade and supply chain security. Trained investigators also conduct 14,000 casualty, suspension and revocation, and civil penalty cases annually to investigate marine accidents and violations. These investigations help prevent future maritime tragedies and leverage lessons-learned to make maritime commerce safer. All of these duties are carried out by a cadre of approximately 1,000 trained uniformed and civilian inspectors, investigators and port state control officers stationed all across the nation and around the world.

Our marine safety program needs to grow to keep pace with significant expansion in the worldwide maritime industry, and we are working toward that end. This August, I commissioned a review of our marine safety program and on September 25, I provided a comprehensive plan to Congress (Enhancing the Coast Guard Marine Safety Program). The plan outlines more than a dozen new initiatives under three broader program goals that I intend to pursue and implement with the support of Congress, in cooperation with the commercial marine industry. The first goal is to improve major marine safety program capacity, competency and performance. The second goal is to enhance service delivery to mariners and industry customers. The third goal is to expand outreach and advisory mechanisms for industry and maritime communities.

We are also modernizing the Coast Guard – improving our organizational structure so that in any maritime incident, we can get our folks where they need to be, with the right training and equipment, in the quickest way possible. To better serve the American public, we also brought together our rapidly deployable emergency response teams under one Deployable Operations Group command, whose skills and capabilities complement those of other Federal, state and local response agencies. Like the rest of the Coast Guard, these highly trained deployable teams carry out a broad range of safety, security and environmental protection missions.

As I told the Propeller Club of DC a few weeks ago, as we work to improve our Marine Safety program and our service delivery structure, we will remain focused on all of our core roles and missions. The Coast Guard will always be about protecting our citizens, our communities, the marine environment, and U.S. economic and security interests within our ports and inland waterways, along our coasts, and around the globe. Just as we have for 217 years, America’s Coast Guard will be there to keep all of us safe and secure.


Admiral Thad W. Allen
Commandant U.S. Coast Guard

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