New Mission Brings New Responsibilities

Posted: May 1, 2011

By: John Malatak

The Coast Guard isn’t the only one with new ­homeland security duties. You have them, too.

By John Malatak, chief, program operations, U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Division

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. Coast Guard took on an expanded homeland security mission in addition to its traditional roles of enforcing maritime law, conducting lifesaving search-and-rescue operations, promoting recreational boating safety, conducting counter-narcotics operations, preventing damage to the marine environment and helping to enforce immigration law.

Staying alert to potential waterborne terrorist activity and securing more than 95,000 miles of shoreline and 290,000 square miles of water is a huge undertaking.

Coast Guard personnel are the nation’s first federal responders in a maritime emergency, and America’s approximately 82 million recreational boaters can help. Those who boat, live or work on or near the water can help the Coast Guard by participating in America’s Waterway Watch (AWW) and reporting any observed suspicious activity, as well as by obeying the new rules to safeguard military and commercial shipping and critical infrastructure.

Watch for Suspicious Activity

¬†The U.S. Coast Guard’s AWW program is based on the same principles as those of Neighborhood Watch and enlists the efforts of the Coast Guard, its Reserve and Auxiliary components, United States Power Squadrons, and local residents, boaters and businesses to augment security.

Always remember that people

are not suspicious, behavior is.

Call (877) 24WATCH if you notice

any of the following:

-Someone taking pictures, video or making sketches of facilities, such as bridges, tunnels, ferry transport systems, fuel docks or power plants.

– Someone asking questions about access to one of these facilities.

– Someone anchoring, fishing or diving in an area not typically used for that activity.

– Unusual night operations, including lights flashing between boats.

– Any boater who misuses his vessel or seems strangely unfamiliar with its operation.

– Unattended vessels near bridges or in unusual locations.

РUnusual transfer of personnel or cargo while under way, anyone tossing items into waterways or onto shorelines, or anyone recovering such items.

– Anyone trying to access a boat by force.

– A hole in a security fence around an industrial facility.

Do not take matters into your own hands. Call the number above. If you believe there is immediate danger to life or property, call the Coast Guard on Channel 16 VHF-FM, or dial 911. As the Department of Homeland Security puts it: If you see something, say something. To learn more, visit America’s Waterway Watch website at

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