Make us your home page
Instagram

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen talks about what keeps him awake at night

In Tampa on Friday, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen talks about the tradeoff between security and culture since Sept. 11 in the United States and the threats to major ports.

MARTHA RIAL | Times

In Tampa on Friday, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen talks about the tradeoff between security and culture since Sept. 11 in the United States and the threats to major ports.

For most people, the Coast Guard's main job involves plucking unlucky or careless boaters out of the stormy seas. But Adm. Thad Allen, the service's top officer, tells civilians the Coast Guard has lots of roles that take "Coasties" from the Mississippi River to the Horn of Africa.

The commandant was in Tampa on Friday to address a conference of harbor safety committees, industry and government officials that work on security and safety issues at major ports. He talked with the St. Petersburg Times about how the service adapted to fight terrorists and what worries him most.

How has the Coast Guard's job changed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks?

Our mission set didn't change terribly since 9/11. Going back to World War I, we were put in charge of safety and security for anchorages and waterfront facilities after a sabotage event in New York harbor. Some of our mission emphasis has changed.

Like what?

After 9/11, we required (foreign-flagged ships to provide) 96-hour notification and the electronic information they provide regarding the manifest of the crew and passengers. That goes to the National Targeting Center, and they produce anomalies that may cause us to want to hold a ship offshore because of a passenger or some cargo we may have a question about.

What kind of threat keeps you awake at night?

Small boats that are under the threshold for international regulation (300 gross tons or about 70 to 80 feet long). If you look at some of the things that have occurred around the world — things like the Mumbai attacks (in India), attack on the (Navy destroyer) Cole, piracy off the Horn of Africa or these self-propelled semisubmersibles bringing cocaine from South America — there's a common denominator: unregulated small boats.

What attacks are the biggest concern?

In the 2007 conference, we looked at four scenarios: the use of a small boat as a platform for a shoulder-held (missile) around, say, an airport; (using a boat) to introduce a weapon of mass effect into the country; a waterborne improvised explosive device; (and) the Mumbai scenario where a small terrorist team would be put ashore by a small vessel.

What is the best way to protect against them?

Here's where it starts to get dicey. Following 9/11, there was an international agreement that every vessel 300 gross tons or more would have a transponder on it, called automatic identification systems.

With recreation boaters and commercial fishing vessels, it becomes a very emotional issue. (They) have a history of autonomy and independent action on the water. There would be very strong resistance to put locator devices on recreational boats. That said, there are countries that require it. If you go to Singapore, they require tracking devices clear down to the Jet Ski level.

So, it really is a tradeoff between security and culture, freedom of movement, autonomy of action — a lot of things this country has been built on. It's a discussion that needs to be had. Sooner or later there's going to have to be a solution that emerges in this country, and we would not like to have to solve this problem after an event.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen talks about what keeps him awake at night 05/29/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 30, 2009 9:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Have your say Tampa Bay on the region's future transit options

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — It's time, yet again, for Tampa Bay residents to tell officials what kind of transit options they want for their region.

    The Cross-Bay Ferry docks at the Tampa Convention Center on its maiden voyage on Nov. 1, 2016. A regional premium transit study will determine whether a ferry, or other options such as express buses or light rail, would be a good addition to Tampa Bay. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Times]
  2. SOCom seeks civilian drone pilots to develop new technology through ThunderDrone

    Macdill

    TAMPA — For the last three years, Nicole Abbett has been using drones as part of her photography business, with clients like the city of Tampa and construction companies.

    Josh Newby, 31, Palm Harbor, of Tampa Drones fly's a drone in England Brothers park, Pinellas Park, 8/25/16. As drone popularity increases as a hobby and business, local governments are navigating a legal grey area- where, when, and how should drone flights be allowed?
  3. New apartment complex delivers unique floor plans



    Business

    RIVERVIEW — A new luxury apartment community has opened in the Progress Village area touting itself as a distinct living option just 10 miles from downtown Tampa.

    Alta at Magnolia Park dubs its new apartment community, that opened earlier this year in Riverview, a modern and distinct option for living just 10 miles from downtown Tampa.
  4. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming

    Roads

    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  5. A sports rout on Wall Street

    Retail

    NEW YORK — Sporting goods retailers can't shake their losing streak.