Marine Transportation System

Posts Tagged ‘TSA’

Is Security Going Overboard?

In Federal Government, Security on November 15, 2010 at 10:01 am

With this piece on transportation security we introduce Richard Biter, a new addition to our contributors.  Rich’s many years at the U.S. Department of Transportation gave him a ring-side seat to, among other things, the rise and demise of the Office of Intermodalism and the creation of the Transportation Security Administration…before the Department of Homeland Security was hatched.  Like most of us who shuffle through Federal airport security, Rich has some thoughts to share.


I’ve been reading with alarming interest how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and it’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have been instituting new airport security measures which include “naked” body scanners (approximately 350 are in place now with an estimated 1,000 by the end of 2011) combined with aggressive and personally intrusive “pat-downs” for those that opt out of being scanned or otherwise chosen at random.  These new procedures are inciting major a backlash from the both the traveling masses and the rare coalition of air travel related organizations that represent travelers, unions and business.

While I could get into a whole litany of issues I have with DHS/TSA airline/airport security, here’s just one example of where the kids have taken over school: A pilot for ExpressJet Airlines, recently refused to undergo a full-body scan at Memphis International Airport in Memphis, TN.  The pilot later stated “I was trying to avoid this assault on my person, and I’m not willing to have images of my nude body produced for some stranger in another room to look at either.”  TSA’s response was that “security is not optional” and any person who refuses security screening is not allowed to fly.

Now let’s think about that for a second…here we subject pilots to rigorous, indeed onerous, security checks to prevent them from bringing any weapons onto an aircraft, only to allow those very same pilots to climb into a locked and secured cockpit. From there they can fly their passenger laden planes most anywhere  a tank of fuel can take them.  Frankly, if a pilot wants to fly into a building or the ground there is no way to stop him/her.  Yeah, yeah, yeah…there’s the argument that a pilot could sneak a gun in and give it to someone else on another flight.  And the gun-toting security guys/gals already behind the security barriers can’t do the same thing?  Where’s the adult-in-charge that can bring some commonsense reasoning into this process who can say “Wait a minute people…at some point we have to establish a level of trust into the system and we should start with the flight crew.”

Now here’s another point to ponder.  We all saw and heard about the plight of the people on the Carnival cruise ship Splendor which was crippled for three days at sea after an engine fire.  But did you know that even though it never docked at a foreign port, DHS’s Custom and Border Protection still ran a check of the passenger manifest before it was towed back to San Diego, CA?  Under what authority allows them to do that?  Followed to its logical extension, will marine highway operators and recreational boaters, e.g. deep-sea fishing, at some point be required to submit to inspection or file a passenger manifest with DHS even though they never dock at a foreign port?  Hmmmm.

Richard Biter

Walking the Dock and Talking the Talk

In Federal Government on August 16, 2009 at 9:19 pm

CMTS group

This week Federal agency folks caught the bus to Baltimore to see a port.   It was organized by Helen Brohl and staff of  the Committee on the Marine Transportation System (CMTS) and facilitated by Frank Hamons and colleagues of the Maryland Port Administration.  The civil servants from NTSB, ITA, OMB, MARAD, NOAA, USACE, USCG, EPA and  perhaps other offices and agencies left Washington to see elments of the MTS first hand.

Terminal operations, a NOAA survey vessel, a Ready Reserve Force ship, an intermodal yard, and a tugboat tour of the cargo and quiche sides of the waterfront.   They met with public and private sector people who keep the working port working.

From time to time one reads complaints about taxpayer money spent on public employee field trips and conference-going…as if it’s always a pleasure jaunt and never of professional value.  I’m sure that this same-day hop, just an hour up the parkway, will spark no such carping.  But that’s beside the point.  It’s a fact that trips like this one  to  the Maryland port instill more understanding than does the reading of a report.  Even one with lots of pictures.   When one is in the field the senses absorb.  The mind muses.   The discussion flows.

Washington is paying much more attention than ever to ports, shipping, and our system of logistics.   EPA regulates ballast water.   The Corps maintains channels.  TSA checks dock worker backgrounds.  NOAA decides when the dredges can work.  OSHA sets new container lift standards.   The Senate ratifies standards to lower ship emissions.  CBP scans cargo for radiation.   OMB reviews regs and budgets.  Fees are collected and new fee proposals abound.

Taking one day to take in the context for all of the above is a day and money well spent.  Kudos to CMTS and the folks in the picture.   Pbea

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