USA. BoatU.S. against compulsory AIS for small craft
Thursday, 10 December 2009
Airplane transponders allow air traffic controllers to "see" who is in the sky. Yesterday, in speaking before the U.S. House of Representatives Coast Guard Subcommittee, BoatU.S. testified that any potential requirement for this type of technology on boats is not practical, nor would it reduce the threat of a waterborne attack. "Contrary to what Hollywood has portrayed, the average boat in this country is 16-feet. Requiring some type of transponder on recreational boats -- many of whom don't even have a battery to power it -- would only be window dressing for a potential homeland security problem that will not be reduced, despite the outlay of billions of dollars," said BoatU.S.Vice President of Government Affairs Margaret Podlich.
Marine Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) have long been used as a collision avoidance tool for commercial ships and provides important vessel identification, position, speed and course information to fellow mariners as well as land-based vessel traffic control systems. Since 9/11, the Coast Guard has been tasked by the Dept. of Homeland Security to develop a small-boat threat assessment and strategy to reduce the possibility of small watercraft being used by terrorists.
"The challenge with AIS is that it does not provide the ability to reduce the small boat threat," said Podlich. "For starters, the AIS unit on a small boat can simply be turned off. And more importantly, how could the U.S. Coast Guard monitor the millions of new vessel traffic movements? The monitoring would be overwhelming, on-the-water force response inadequate, and it would be costly to taxpayers to build and operate the system," said Podlich. She also mentioned boaters would be forced to pick up the tab for the AIS units, which currently starts at about $600.
"Even if a would-be terrorist would go to the trouble of complying with an AIS requirement, they would merely have to pull the AIS unit's electrical plug moments before the attack," Podlich testified. She also mentioned a terrorist could simply steal a boat. "AIS does not recognize if people aboard a vessel are on a watch list." In addition, AIS can be easily "spoofed," or manipulated to make every AIS transponder in a certain area report inaccurate data.
The Better Solution: America's Waterway Watch
BoatU.S. believes the U.S. Coast Guard would have better results addressing the small boat threat if the agency's own America's Waterway Watch program (AWW) had better funding and infrastructure support. Similar to a neighborhood watch program, America's Waterway Watch treats boaters as part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
"Several government reports have concluded that working with recreational and commercial vessel operators is a key to increasing our domestic maritime security. Boaters need to know they have the ability to report to the US Coast Guard when they see something looks suspicious on the water by calling 1-877-24WATCH. We hope Congress will bolster this program since it's so critical in reducing the small boat threat," added Podlich. Additional funding for AWW was written into the Coast Guard Authorization Act (HR 3619) which passed out of the House last month and is now awaiting action by the Senate.
To review Podlich's testimony, go to www.BoatUS.com/gov. To learn more about America's Waterway Watch program, go to www.AmericasWaterwayWatch.com .
Last Updated ( Thursday, 10 December 2009 )