Admiral: Port Standards In Marshalls Vital To US Security

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Also key to emergency management and disaster resilience

By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, September 1, 2015) – Port security in the Marshall Islands is key to U.S. national security, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Vincent Atkins said during a visit to Majuro to meet with top-level officials.

"From the U.S. perspective, port security is important," he said during his visit last week, noting that a number of vessels sail between the Marshall Islands and U.S. ports. "The U.S. focus is on understanding our partners’ ability to secure their ports — it is an extension of our national security."

Atkins, who oversees the 14th Coast District that covers the entire Pacific, said the "Marshall Islands is a great partner." He complemented the government for its focus on port security efforts.

He also pointed out the crucial nature of ports to emergency management.

"Emergency management in island nations hinges on ports being resilient," Atkins said. He talked about the heavy damage sustained by Saipan in recent typhoons, and pointed out that getting the port back into operation was critical to restoring services to the entire island.

Atkins also offered praise for a recent emergency exercise in Majuro involving the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and numerous Marshall Islands agencies, which used the scenario of an airplane crash into the ocean.

"Everyone needs a search and rescue plan that includes an ocean plan," he said. "Fantastic lessons were learned (from the exercise)." For Atkins, the key point in search and rescue is ensuring the response time is as fast as possible and how to synchronize the response to save lives.

Atkins also said the Coast Guard has "shiprider" agreements with nine Pacific nations that allow law enforcement personnel from these countries — including the Marshall Islands — to travel on Coast Guard vessels in their exclusive economic zones to "enforce their sovereignty using our vessels." This has resulted in numerous boardings of vessels and expansion of marine surveillance beyond the capability of the islands that are limited to one or two small patrol boats.


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