We all know about the post-9/11 security-at-all-costs mania that gripped the country and unfortunately saddled the marine industry with unnecessary requirements and costs. The biggest one is the TWIC card, an ongoing expensive disaster with little or no security benefits that has made life tougher on hardworking mariners and the companies that employ them.
Another requirement with the potential to rival the TWIC card is AIS – Automatic Identification System. While AIS has some benefits for fleet tracking and planning, it is basically just another security requirement for workboats that will likely do nothing to increase security or help prevent a terrorist attack.
For many small workboat operators, AIS units, at about $2,000 a pop, will end up being a big cost burden, especially during these recessionary times. For example, how about Fire Island Ferries, a small ferry operator that operates 24 boats on a short 15- to 25-minute run in very shallow water across the Great South Bay on New York’s Long Island? As Dave Anderson of Fire Island Ferries says, “We’d only be monitoring ourselves,” since the run is devoid of any commercial traffic.
One way to help out with the costs of AIS is to apply for a Homeland Security grant. In the last round of port security grants, several passenger vessel operators were able to secure funding for AIS units.
Still, the best remedy is for the Coast Guard to revisit its proposed changes for AIS regulations and waive AIS requirements for small workboats. Simply put, AIS for small passenger vessels, tugs and towboats is overkill.