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Recreational boats and national security

MAY 31 — The Department of Homeland Security and Coast Guard are preparing for a National Small Vessel Security Summit, which will take place June 19 and 20.

In recent months proposals have been made to license boat owners or require them to outfit their vessels with expensive electronic tracking gear, according to a BoatU.S. news release. The proposals are in response to the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in which a small inflatable vessel laden with explosives attacked the U.S. Navy destroyer in the Middle Eastport of Aden.

“Recreational boaters want to be part of a comprehensive solution to this threat, but any new requirements must be measured in terms of both effectiveness and efficiency,” Michael Sciulla, BoatU.S. senior vice president for public affairs, says in the release.

For the purposes of the summit, a “small vessel” will be characterized as any recreational watercraft generally weighing less than 300 gross tons that is used for commercial fishing, towing and other recreational boats and yachts, the Department of Homeland Security says. The summit will consist of a number of panel discussions featuring speakers such as Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff and Coast Guard commandant Admiral Thad Allen.

“Requiring millions of recreational boat owners to be licensed and tasking the already overburdened Coast Guard with implementing a duplicative system solely to identify everyone operating every type of boat will be costly to develop, take years to implement and will not result in a demonstrable improvement in national security,” he says.

Recreational boaters can be the “eyes and ears” of the waterway, Sciulla says in the release. He also says clearly marked security zones will ensure that boaters know where they can and cannot go.

The invitation-only security summit will be held in Virginia. For more information click here.