By R. Bruce Striegler

In back-to-back presentations at PortSecure 2012, the Port Security Conference of Canada, held in Vancouver in May 2012, Assistant Deputy Transport Minister Gerard McDonald and Rear Admiral Keith Taylor, Commander of 13th District, U.S. Coast Guard (Seattle) offered their respective views on the implementation of the sometimes controversial Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama in February 2011.

Beyond the Border’s official objectives are to preserve and extend the benefits of the close relationship between the two countries by implementing a single security perimeter, foremost to enhance protection, but also to accelerate the legitimate flow of people, goods and services. The strategy aims to strenghten the resilience of both countries and to reduce impacts from attack or natural disaster while improving response to, and recovery from those disruptions. The success of the plan seems to depend on readiness and cooperation at all levels, from national to regional and local governments, as well as private sector infrastructure systems and networks.

Although implementation is well underway, some Canadians remain firmly opposed to the measures, warning against the integration and ‘militarization’ of the Northern border. Civil rights groups caution of the loss of sovereignty and privacy rights as increased cross-border information sharing becomes the new normal. The government has conducted online consultations around the perimeter security agreement. However, there have been no open public hearings or parliamentary debate.

With billions of dollars worth of goods and two hundred thousand people crossing the shared border every day, both governments are now focusing on ways to improve cross-border business travel, for example, placing a greater emphasis on trusted traveller programs. On May 14, the day before PortSecure 2012 opened, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, and Canada’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, announced joint consultations with cross-border business stakeholders to improve business travel between the United States and Canada.

The Canadian contribution to the Beyond the Border Action Plan

Mr. McDonald says, “We are working to align Canadian and U.S. maritime security requirements. We can reduce unnecessary administrative burdens or other such trade impediments by harmonizing requirements. At the same time, we’re exploring the feasibility of mutual recognition of a regulatory oversight regime for our respective fleets on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.”

Working with the International Maritime Organization

At the September 2011 meeting of the IMO Trade Facilitation Committee, Transport Canada agreed to co-chair, along with the United States, a Correspondence Group to develop voluntary guidelines and measures to facilitate trade recovery.

The guidelines are for use by IMO member states and industry to increase the resilience of the global maritime supply chain and minimize disruptions in the event of large-scale emergencies. “Canada is working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard on this initiative. These guidelines will draw from Canadian and U.S. experience with critical infrastructure protection and maritime commerce resilience planning.” The guidelines will be presented and discussed at a scheduled IMO meeting in early 2013.

The U.S. view centred on security and natural disaster

Rear Admiral Taylor said, “Ten years after 9/11 we have a maturity of understanding of the security things that work, are gaining some understanding of those that don’t work. We need to drive to the next level. We need to make sure we are providing the support, facilitation and flow of information that is important to both our nations and that we’re doing it in a very smart way, to ensure we remain safe and secure.”

Rear Admiral Taylor noted that, “Lots of policy things are being worked on in both our countries which include trade facilitation and economic cooperation, cross-border law enforcement, and the need the address threats early. There are other things, like cyber attacks, which we need to turn our attention to, the reality of information and information systems and what they mean to our security and our trade.”

He said that the U.S. Coast Guard is focused on three fundamental things – safety, security and environmental stewardship. “They’re not separate, I never think of them as separate, but rather as intertwined. I applaud the efforts to bring security and safety together in Transport Canada. It’s a good model, but needs to be done smartly. We’ve been doing that for some time, and I think we do a pretty good job of that, but we can always improve and can learn from Canada’s efforts as we move forward.”

Cooperation and collaboration

Rear Admiral Taylor says that security of the global supply chain needs to be addressed and worked on collectively. “We need to promote the safe movement of goods and need to foster a resilient supply chain. There’s no way we can harden everything, no way we can build enough fences or walls. We have to fundamentally shift our thinking about safety and security and what that means for resilience and how we achieve our end goals.”

”For us in the Coast Guard, we’re trying to address all these layers. We’re in ports around the globe trying to make sure they’re safe and secure. That’s tough, it’s an ongoing challenge. Once goods or people leave those ports, the U.S. Coast Guard needs the capability to interdict, respond at sea – hopefully far away from either of our nations.”

He continued, saying, “We work closely with industry – from labour to different types of carriers, to people that facilitate trade, people that connect to intermodal conveyances, those who run and manage the ports. It’s very complex and we need to make sure we talk and communicate with everyone.”

He notes that in challenging budgetary times, for both government and industry, that whatever regulatory changes are made, there is a need to refer back to the steps taken over the past ten years and ensure that they still make sense. “Are these investments attaining the best return, and are the investments an accurate reflection of the threats?”

He added, “We work very closely with Canadian authorities. The things we’ve done in the Pacific Northwest for many years that related to response to oil spills have been done cooperatively. We run large-scale trans-boundary exercises each year, we have a joint response team that plans for, and prepares us to deal with those challenges. We work to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to prevent having to actually use these large-scale capabilities.”

“We also have a cooperative vessel-tracking system established in 1979, it’s been a hallmark around the globe for how two nations come together to provide for safety in the movements of large vessels in and out of a very complex port environment whether North to Canada or South to Washington State as ships transit the Straits of Juan de Fuca.”

The Ship Rider Program

The U.S. Coast Guard Commander talked about initiatives being worked on right now. “Integrated cross-border maritime law enforcement,” he says, referring to another highly controversial item for some Canadians. Called Ship Rider, the U.S. employed similar programs as early as 2000 in the Caribbean. In 2005, introduced as a pilot project, the U.S. and Canadian governments began to incorporate the Ship Rider Program in North American waters.

Under the program, officers from the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are assigned to each other’s patrol crafts. During the course of duty, if patrolling officers have reason to engage a suspect craft on the U.S. side of the border fleeing into Canadian waters, the lead USCG officer has the power to pursue and seize, subject to the search, seizure and arresting laws of the United States. If the craft is on the Canadian side of the border, the opposite principles apply. The pilot Ship Rider program was hailed by American law enforcement as a way to deal with “unprecedented” threats along the Northern border from terrorists, human smugglers, illegal firearms traffickers and drug dealers.

In May of this year, the Ship Rider Program was introduced in the Windsor–Detroit area so that law enforcement officers from both sides of the border will ride together on the Detroit River and the Great Lakes. The RCMP and USCG will be able to more fully share information and resources while looking for drug traffickers or cross-border smugglers.

Cross training, accreditation and IBETs

Both RCMP and USCG officers attend a two-week joint training session at the USCG Maritime Law Enforcement Academy in Charleston, South Carolina. After graduating from the program, RCMP members are cross-designated as U.S. Customs officers, and USCG officers are cross-designated as supernumerary RCMP constables.

In his presentation, Rear Admiral Taylor said, “We’ve prototyped this several times, used it very successfully during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. I’m very optimistic that the partnership with the RCMP will result in the full implementation of Ship Rider by the end of this summer in the waters of the Pacific Northwest and Southern British Columbia. We’ll have dedicated law enforcement officers of the USCG riding and operating with the RCMP to address what seems to be persistent smuggling and other illicit trade across the maritime border.”

A so-called ‘land version’ of Ship Rider is expected to be launched sometime this summer as part of the security perimeter agreement. In September 2011, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder disclosed the creation of “NextGen” teams of cross-designated officers which will allow more effective identification and interdiction of persons and organizations involved in trans-national crime.

Cross accreditation programs are regularly used for training Integrated Border Enforcement Teams (IBET). There are 15 IBETs coast to coast, involving five agencies: RCMP, U.S. Coast Guard, Canada Border Services Agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Office of Border Patrol, and U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (US-ICE). IBETs have law enforcement responsibilities for areas at or near the shared border, and are charged with protecting Canada and the United States from potential threats of terrorism, and inhibiting human and contraband trafficking.

Are we ready for a natural disaster?

Rear Admiral Taylor says that to manage traffic swiftly following an emergency, “We have a collective working group that has put a lot of time into developing solutions. We know that whether man-made or not, bad things are going to happen. At some point we expect there will be a major earthquake, perhaps a tsunami. How bad we do not know but, if severe enough, it will affect all of our ports, our waterways and our communities.”

“The reality is, for us to quickly respond to near-term and long-term recovery, it will be from the sea. We need to think through how we prepare ourselves  across the border to serve those citizens that are relying on us to bring calm, measured activity against what will probably be a chaotic event.”

In a point he repeated several times, Rear Admiral Taylor was emphatic about the need for the people of both countries to fully understand the importance of the ocean waterway, its impact on their lives due to trade and economic survival. “We need to tell our citizens we’re maritime nations, we need to nurture and protect that. If something terrible happens on the water, it becomes a challenge to us all.”

Having and sharing information

Taylor acknowledged the complexity of his own country’s bureaucracy, noting that, “We deal with a lot of different global partners and it can be exceptionally confusing – even within the United States. The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection alone is vast – with field offices, the U.S. Border Patrol, and air and marine operations.”

He adds, “It goes much further, we must deal across the rest of the Department of Homeland Security enterprise, which includes the Transportation Security Administration, Federal Emergency Man­agement Administration as well as across the federal government to the Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceans and Atmospheric Agency, all the scientists who do ocean research and environmental studies. It’s an incredibly complex array of people and departments, all with different authority and responsibilities. When I come North, I have to translate all those different things and find the right groups of people to work very closely with their counterparts in Canada.”

The Rear Admiral suggests there will be some challenges. “It’s all about having information and sharing information. We struggle in the States sharing information across agencies and then from the federal to the state governments and local communities. We’re going to struggle trying to knock down some barriers about sharing information across borders.

I’m going to do everything I can to help break down those barriers because I truly believe this an effort that is absolutely worthy to work on very hard on, and see become a reality.” He adds that on both sides of the border, there is work with the First Nations or tribal nations who have important stakes and a partnership in developments that may affect their ways of life and claims to the sea.

Mastering the challenges of the future

Taylor is passionate about the incredible challenge the future represents, acknowledging there are also many unknowns. He raised the widening and deepening of the Panama Canal, “People are talking about what it means, how it might change trade routes, global supply chains and what it may mean to us.”

“Today we deal with bigger and bigger ships that have already changed the shipping industry. There are discussions around new pipelines into the region, which means more crude oil will move in and out of Puget Sound, the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the Salish Sea. What does that mean and are we ready to deal with it? Environmental crimes and derelict vessels exist and will continue to proliferate, and we need to know how to deal with these things.”

Rear Admiral Taylor concluded by saying, “Things need to flow North and South, safely and efficiently, no matter which port the goods and services are going to. Steadfast friends realize there are challenges, but we’re committed to working on those challenges.”