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Pleasure boaters asked to be vigilant

As boating season ramps up for most of the country, the Bush administration seeks to enlist the country’s 80 million recreational boaters to keep possible terrorist threats at bay, according to the Associated Press.

The Small Vessel Security Strategy (SVSS) proposed by the government in April is designed to close security gaps and reduce risks associated with the possible exploitation of small maritime vessels, according to a press release from the Department of Homeland Security. While there has never been a strike of this sort in U.S. waters, terrorists have used small boats loaded with explosives to attack internationally. Rear Admiral Joseph L. Nimmich said at a Boating Writers International meeting at the Miami Boat Show in 2007 that a powerboat laden with explosives would just as easily blow a hole in a cruise ship, tanker or waterfront facility.

About 85 percent of U.S. boats, ports and marinas are owned and operated in the private sector, and there are about 18 million small boats in the country. The coordinated multi-layered approach of the SVSS can ensure each can be adequately protected. Compared to a neighborhood watch program, some goals of the strategy outlined by Homeland Security include better identification of small vessels operating in U.S. waters, expanded radiological and nuclear detection capabilities like the DHS West Coast Maritime Radiation Detection Project and improved situational awareness and information sharing.

“When that oil tanker is coming from the Middle East, we know everything about it before it gets here,” said John Fetterman, deputy chief of Maine’s marine patrol, in the AP report.However small boats, “nobody knows a lot about them.”

For a copy of the SVSS or information, visit

— Elizabeth Ellis