The Coast Guard has published regulations aimed at helping to protect ports, ships and maritime facilities from possible terrorist threats.

The Coast Guard's six interim final rules, issued July 1 in the Federal Register, were mandated by last year's Maritime Transportation Security Act. They took effect on the publication date, but will be replaced by final regulations by Oct. 25. Comments on the interim versions are due by July 31.

For U.S. seaports, the regulations include a requirement to carry out vulnerability assessments and develop plans for needed upgrades. Ports must submit their plans to the Coast Guard by Dec. 31

More specifically, the rules set up Area Maritime Security Committees, composed of federal, state and local government officials plus industry representatives, at all 361 ports. Each committee is to draw up a security plan for its port.

The committees also are required to do vulnerability and threat assessments. Those studies will draw on preliminary assessments already done at 47 important ports, says the Dept. of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard's parent agency.

But to carry out required security upgrades, the American Association of Port Authorities says ports need much more federal funding than the $412 million they have received so far. Another $105 million is expected by the end of the summer.

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The Coast Guard estimates that implementing the facility security plans will cost $5.4 billion over 10 years, including $1.1 billion in the first year. Of the initial year's cost, the Coast Guard says in its Federal Register notice, about 51% would be for installing or upgrading equipment, 30% for hiring and training facility security officers, 14% for hiring more guards and 5% for paperwork.

Beyond the first year, the cost split shifts dramatically: 52% for security officers, 24% for guards, 9% for paperwork, 9% for operating and maintaining equipment and 6% for holding security drills.

AAPA says ports have diverted some of their own funds to security from other operating programs. AAPA President Kurt Nagle says, "Clearly much has already been done to enhance port security. But even more will need to be done in order to comply with the new Coast Guard regulations…."