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Boaters Eye New Federal Security Measures

April 29, 2008 — Boaters have a few months to look over a new security plan from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security before the new measures will impact them.
With implementation scheduled for the end of the year, boaters have time to review and offer comment on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's new Small Vessel Security Strategy.
"No new regulatory actions are required to be immediately implemented as a result of this strategy, and any future security measures will be made public with plenty of time for comment and review," said Cmdr. Jeff Carter, a spokesman at U.S. Coast Guard headquarters.
But even though the kickoff is several months away, recreational and professional boaters should know that the department is considering changes that will affect them.
"The department is currently pursuing a requirement for small-vessel operators to demonstrate operational proficiency, which has both safety and security considerations, but this is not a mandate for any form of federal testing or licensing," Carter said.
Chris Curreri doesn't feel that a boater-proficiency requirement is out of line. He's a recreational boater, USCG-licensed captain, and regular in the sailboat racing winner's circle. When he was in France, Curreri had to have a license to operate any boat with an engine more than six horsepower.
"The United States should have some kind of license — you have to have one for real estate — but you can drive a boat without having to show any ability to the licensing authority," Curreri said. "Someone can sign off and say you can do it, but no one actually checks you out."
Richard Skeffington, a recreational boater, concurred with Curreri.
"It wouldn't hurt to have courses or require boat-safety courses," Skeffington said. Any cost to boaters should be minimal, he emphasized.
The department should also carefully consider the impact of burdening foreign boaters with a lot of licensing demands in the Caribbean, Curreri said.
"We'd better hope that other countries don't do that to us," he said.
Homeland Security is also considering requiring boaters to carry some form of government-issued identification, which could be a driver's license — ideally Real ID-compliant, but not necessarily, Carter said. A wide range of identification could meet such a requirement, including a passport, a state-issued ID card, or a Transportation Worker Identification Credential.
Neither Curreri nor Skeffington objected to a requirement for carrying identification.
The strategy is based on recommendations from approximately 260 stakeholders in the boating community at last summer's National Small Vessel Security Summit. Local interests Crowley Marine Corporation and Hovensa are listed among the participants in the Arlington, Va., summit.
"The most striking and major theme of the summit was the stakeholders' universal agreement that a culture of partnership, incorporating a balance of the need for increased security with the individual freedoms and economic viability, will define and fuel this partnership of government, industry and the public," Carter explained.
While partnership was a major theme of the summit, the summit report acknowledges contention in discussions of credentialing, licensing and certifying small vessels.
For more information, boaters can call the local Coast Guard office at 340-776-3497. For a copy of the DHS Small Vessel Security Strategy Plan, click here. For additional information on small-vessel security visit dhs.gov.

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