US Coast Guard Activities Europe

Brunssum, The Netherlands


What is the objective of the International Port Security Program?

In partnership with our maritime trading partners, the International Port Security Program seeks to reduce risk to U.S. maritime interests, including U.S. ports and ships, and to facilitate secure maritime trade globally. Through reciprocal port visits, the discussion and sharing of port security best practices and the development of mutual interests in securing ships coming to the United States, both U.S. port security and the security of the global maritime transport system are enhanced. IPS Program visits and discussions are instrumental to the U.S. Coast Guard having confidence in the effectiveness of a port state's implementation of the ISPS Code and other international maritime security standards and to enhance port security measures beyond the minimum requirements of the ISPS Code. We seek to improve port security in foreign ports to provide mutual benefits to the United States and our maritime trading partners.

What is the importance of the Maritime Security mission?

Maritime security standards have not traditionally been a part of the culture; however, those days are over. More so than perhaps any other industry, maritime shipping and passenger transportation involves the collective investment of all nations. Between a vessel's flag, crew, owner, cargo, passengers, insurers and port calls, each of its voyages can involve dozens of nations. This interdependence that leads to mutual prosperity during periods of productive trade, can also bind us together in loss during disasters or terrorist incidents. A terrorist attack involving the shipping industry in one nation would have ramifications around the world. For that reason, it is important that maritime states align their understanding of the best, most practical and most cost effective means to reach the goal of a secure global maritime transport system.

How is the Maritime Security mission accomplished?

We believe personal interaction is the best way to improve and uphold international port security standards and to achieve mutual goals. The U.S. Coast Guard has liaison officers dedicated to all maritime trading nations in the world. These liaison officers maintain regular communication with our respective Embassies and local maritime professionals, including government authorities responsible for maritime and port security as well as port officials and port facility security officers -- fostering relationships and sharing security related information. In addition, these officers coordinate regular visits to foreign ports to observe port security measures in place. These visits ensure the smooth and secure movement of people and goods between our ports and throughout the global maritime transport system.

What countries do International Port Security Liason Officers visit?

The Coast Guard IPS Program has visited nearly every coastal state in the world. Our strong partnerships with over 150 countries is the result of personal visits both in the host nation and on reciprocal visits to the United States, when we share new information, offer recommendations to each other, and review improvements. We seek to visit countries at least annually to maintain our cooperative relationship and to further our mutual goals of a secure maritime transport system.

What can a country expect when the Coast Guard visits?

Each of our visits are tailored to reflect a mutually agreeable agenda. Visits typically include:

Government Engagement: We meet with representatives of the ISPS Code Designated Authority and other agencies with maritime and port security responsibly to share how nations implement the ISPS Code as well as other measures that improve security.

Port Visits: We tour local ports alongside the Port Facility Security Officers to observe security measures in action and exchange recommendations.

U.S. Embassy: The Coast Guard is one of several U.S. Government entities focusing its attention on the security of maritime trade. When appropriate, we strive to work with our partner agencies to maximize benefits to the host nation and minimize redundancy. We meet with officers at our embassy to coordinate our efforts with the Department of State as well as other agencies in the Department of Homeland Security such as Customs and Border Protection, as well as the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense.

Is training available?

The IPS Program is dedicated to supporting nations that show a commitment to improving their port security. We are involved in workshops, conferences, and tailored seminars. In addition, the Coast Guard's Office of International Affairs offers a variety of port safety and security related courses. Our liaison officers can help make this information available. The IPS Program also partners with the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Organization of American States (OAS), and other multi-lateral bodies to provide subject matter experts for the port security training these organizations offer.

If a ship arrives in the United States from a port or a country that does not comply with the IMO standards, what happens?

As the Port State Control authority in the United States, the Coast Guard is responsible for protecting U.S. ports. Foreign states that do not, or cannot, maintain effective antiterrorism measures are listed in a public Port Security Advisory, published on the Coast Guard’s website at The Coast Guard imposes conditions of entry on vessels sailing to the United States from foreign ports that do not comply with IMO standards, particularly the ISPS Code. These conditions of entry could result in additional costs for the vessels while in U.S. ports, delays in transit times due to security requirements, or decreased traffic to that foreign port because of increased costs in security, insurance, and other precautionary measures. Additional requirements may be imposed regarding the transit or operation of the vessel. The vessel may be able to reduce some of the requirements by taking measures consistent with a higher security level while in a less secure port prior to transit to the United States.

Will the U.S. receive visits from other countries?

The Coast Guard invites countries with ports that send ships to the United States to participate in reciprocal visits to observe the United States Coast Guard's ISPS Code implementation procedures and other aspects of our port security. During the visit, delegates will have opportunities to visit with Coast Guard Headquarters' staff and discuss regulatory and policy development processes, evaluation of security assessment and plan review and approval processes, and visit field units to observe implementation of the Port Facility Security Plan (PFSP). Delegations will tour ports with similar industries and capacities as their own. Since 2005, over 100 countries have visited the United States to share valuable insight with our port officials and return home with new perspectives for the security in their own ports. Requests for these visits should be made through your Coast Guard International Port Security Liaison Officer (IPSLO) or through the U.S. Embassy in country.

If you have questions on this program, contact:

Phone: (202) 372-1213