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Captain Tom Allan describes role of USCG in Sector Jacksonville at 2015 PSOCE Conference

Port Canaveral, FL – As a recipient of only 1.5% of the DHS federal grants, says Captain Tom Allan, Commandant of Sector Jacksonville, FL, the U.S. Coast Guard is “the best bargain you’re ever going to find.” With 46,000 active duty personnel, it’s smaller than the NYPD, and Disney World has more people on its staff.

With two major ports, the Port of Jacksonville and Port Canaveral, Captain Allan is responsible for 400 crews with boats, cutters, boardings; 450 search and rescue cases every year; inspection of 2,000 vessels and 4,500 vessel screenings per year (scanning cargo, inspecting for narcotics, contraband, explosives). It’s a big job, he says, and it’s compounded by the fact that a lot of people don’t remember 9/11. Some of the challenges facing the Coast Guard’s operations in Sector Jacksonville include:

  • Increased demand for Coast Guard services
  • The “New Ocean” (Arctic)
  • New enemies (lone wolves, ISI, Ebola)
  • The need for new cutters; and
  • The reality that it is only possible to interdict 20% of illegal shipments

Port Canaveral is now the #1 Cruise Ship Port in the world and is systematically widening and deepening its channels to 55 feet, at which time it will be a real benefit to Canaveral, which used to be called “The Space Coast,” but is now also a logistics center. The Port recently created a new ship terminal in 18 months that can accommodate the largest cruise ships in the world.

The New Panamax ships, which have a dimension of 366 m (1,200 ft) in length, 49 m (160.7ft) in width and 15.2 m (49.9 ft) in depth, have been designed strictly in accordance with the dimensions of new locks at the Panama Canal. Port Canaveral is ratcheting up to be able to accept more of the New Panama vessels and to have the best in the world cruise ship security.

As for the Port of Jacksonville, it is the number one importer and exporter of vehicles and one of 16 strategic ports in the country that were recently updated. It is a “logistics management hub” and one of the easiest to do business with in South Florida, with three river miles, which are restricted to vessels over 30 feet.

In other salutary development for the two ports, the cost of fuel is being lowered substantially by the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and the two busy ports are also participating in the growth of recreational facilities around them.

Captain Allan also pointed out that there is still a substantial military presence in Sector Jacksonville, including a submarine base, and Jacksonville is also home to the U.S.S. New York, one of the Navy’s latest ships. In additional Navy and Air Force presence, the 832nd Battalion houses troops for Iraq and Afghanistan.

“On Saturday, SpaceX is putting up another satellite,” said Captain Allan. “Growth is terrific, but the threats are still there. We’ve had Al Qaeda for a long time, and the ISIS people are getting training. There are home-grown violent extremists, lone wolf attacks – they even caught a kid last year making bombs and teaching other kids how to make bombs.”

Cybersecurity also continues to be a big issue with the Coast Guard. One of the customers in Canaveral had attacks by Chinese hackers. With lots of growth, there are lots of threats. The JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force) brings people and agencies together – and it brings national intelligence down to the local level. In Florida, we have the Regional Domestic Task Force, which targets federal grant programs and brings in law enforcement, hospitals, public health and fire protection.

“The Maritime Security Act called for public-private industry. We at the federal, state, local level do not have the capacity to keep every port safe. We find gaps. We have to be careful. We try to keep concentrated on industry in port areas, but safety has to be taken care of.”


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