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Bill for Maritime Security and bagging Screening Await President Obama's Signature

12/17/2012 -

Congress has presented a Coast Guard authorization bill and a bill on airline baggage screening to President Obama for his signature. The President is expected to sign both measures into law.

H.R. 2838, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2012, addresses several security issues, including border security, piracy, and IDs for transportation workers.

The measure establishes the Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations Program, which will coordinate the border security efforts of the United States and Canada. The program will be designed to “strengthen border security and detect, prevent, suppress, investigate, and respond to terrorism and violations of law related to border security.”

The program will include a training program for maritime law enforcement officers. These officers will train jointly with their Canadian counterparts.

H.R. 2838 also authorizes atraining program for U.S. mariners on use-of-force against pirates. The training will include information on high-risk waters, current piracy threats, attack patterns of pirates, tactics for defending against pirates, and rules for the use-of-force in self defense. The training will also include procedures mariners should follow to improve their chance of survival if they are captured by pirates.

The bill will require that any government department or agency under the Department of Transportation that transports goods through high-risk waters ensure that armed personnel are present aboard those vessels. The government may provide armed guards directly or opt to provide compensation to vessel owners for providing armed guards.

The authorization bill also includes language from H.R. 3173, which amends enrollment requirements for theTransportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). Currently, TWIC enrollment requires at least two in-person visits by the applicant to obtain a card. Under H.R. 2838, the enrollment process must take only one in-person visit.

Another bill (S. 3542) presented to President Obama would give the Transportation Security Administration the power to allowbaggage from certain foreign airports to bypass explosives screening upon entering the United States.

Baggage could only bypass screening in the United States if it is coming from an airport that has an aviation security preclearance agreement with the United States.

An aviation security preclearance agreement refers to an agreement that delineates and implements security standards and protocols comparable to those of the United States.

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