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The U.S. Marine Transportation System (MTS) is a vital part of the national economy, playing a key role in the global supply chain.  The MTS consists of over 25,000 miles of navigable waterways, 238 locks at 192 locations, and over 8,000 waterway facilities.  Over 99% of the volume of overseas trade enters or leaves the U.S. by ship.  The MTS annually serves 106 million ferry passengers and almost 11 million cruise ship passengers.

The U.S. Coast Guard is the lead federal agency in securing the maritime mode of transportation. TSA supports the U.S. Coast Guard in its maritime security efforts and focuses primarily on passenger security and intermodal connectivity to ports.  TSA also supports the U.S. Coast Guard by leveraging TSA’s core competencies of passenger screening, explosives detection, credentialing, and intermodal security.

Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)

Congress directed the federal government, through the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA), to issue a biometric security credential to individuals who require unescorted access to secure areas of facilities and vessels and all mariners holding Coast Guard-issued credentials or qualification documents.  TWIC is a common identification credential for all personnel requiring unescorted access to secure areas of MTSA-regulated facilities and vessels.  Individuals who meet TWIC eligibility requirements are issued a tamper-resistant biometric credential to allow for a positive link between the card and the individual.  Controlling access to secure areas is critical to enhancing port security.  TSA is responsible for enrollment, conduct of security threat assessments, and systems operations and maintenance related to TWIC card issuance.  The USCG is responsible for enforcement of regulations governing the use of TWIC cards at regulated facilities and vessels.  TSA has enrolled over 2.8 million longshoremen, truckers, merchant mariners, and rail, and vessel crewmembers nationwide in the TWIC Program.  The TWIC Program is a strategic security partnership among the USCG, TSA, and the private sector.  For more information on the TWIC program click here.

Visible Intermodal Prevention & Response (VIPR) Teams

VIPR teams are a visible deterrent to potential terrorist activity. VIPR teams consisting of Behavior Detection Officers, Federal Air Marshals, Explosives Detection Canine Teams, Transportation Security Inspectors (TSIs), Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) or state and local law enforcement officers operate throughout the transportation system as an additional layer of security. Through the VIPR program, TSA has conducted more than 2,000 operations at maritime locations, including cruise and ferry terminals, since the program’s inception in 2005.

National Canine Program

Established in 1972, the National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program exists to deter and detect the introduction of explosive devices into the transportation system.  In 2008, Congress authorized and appropriated funds for the program to expand to maritime (ferry) systems. There are currently ten TSA canines deployed to maritime systems.

Port Security Grants

TSA participates in the FEMA administered Port Security Grant Program (PSGP) as a member of the annual National Review Panel and the Executive Steering Committee.  The PSGP has awarded over $2.75 billion dollars to port and vessel stakeholders during the 12 rounds of grants held since 2002.

Maritime Security Training CDs

TSA's OSPIE Surface Division produces and distributes security-training CDs for passenger vessel crews and terminal employees.  Each CD contains a self-paced training product that takes about an hour or so to complete in one sitting.  However, a learner does not need to complete it in one sitting because it will save the location of where the student left off and pick back up there upon return.  The descriptions below provide additional details about each CD currently available.  For more information on any of these courses, or to order copies, please send an e-mail to

Security Awareness for Passenger Vessel Employees: A 101-level introduction to security awareness concepts.  The CD introduces security concepts, such as indications of suspicious persons and packages, communication and reporting of threats and incidents, and how to minimize exposure and injuries.  A pre-test feature allows learners to test out of the course if they have already mastered the material.  The course has great utility for just about anyone needing basic security awareness, from the ticket taker to those whose duties include providing security.

VBIED/IED Recognition/Response for Passenger Vessels and Terminals: A 201-level coverage of recognition and response to suspicious packages and vehicles.  The CD reviews the suspicious indicators that the first CD in the series covers.  Additional information includes emphasize the importance of not touching a suspicious object, immediate responses to take, and reporting considerations.  The most interactive of the courses, it features checks on learning that require identification of suspicious objects based on their placement alone (suspicious versus a lost or misplaced item), printable job aides, and interviews with experts in the field.  A must-have for anyone who regularly conducts security patrols or interacts with members of the public! 

Crowd Control for Passengers Vessels and Terminals: A 201-level coverage of crowd control concepts.  The course presents theories for crowd movement and uses case studies to progress to how vessel and terminal operators can apply those concepts to their advantage to safely move large groups of people with special considerations for the maritime environment.  The course also focuses on characteristics of effective leaders and how to employ these desirable traits during an emergency.  The course targets those who work on a daily basis with members of the public.

Maritime Terrorism and Hijacking Situations: A 201-level coverage of hijacking and piracy situations and how to prevent them.  Very maritime-centric, this course has broad appeal for vessel security officers and those likely to send ships into hostile waters.  The course emphasizes proper planning as a method to avoid terrorism situations, as well as defensive measures to take in the event of a terrorist incident or hostage situation, to include active shooters.

Screening Procedures: The course covers basic screening concepts and procedures at the 101-level for those not familiar with this role.  The course focuses on screening techniques that involve minimal (human senses) or common technologies (x-ray machines, metal detectors, K-9s, etc.).  The course reviews some material from “Security Awareness for Passenger Vessel Employees” but with added coverage on how to set up and run a screening operation, that enables quick, efficient throughput.  A follow-on lesson describes more elaborate screening technologies that may be obtainable through grant funding.

Terminal and Vessel Evacuation Procedures: Building on concepts from “Crowd Control for Passenger Vessels and Terminals,” this course explains how to evacuate in emergencies.  For maritime, this includes a section on lifeboat deployment.  The overall intent is to have a multi-modal focus too, featuring evacuation of other transportation terminals.

Contact Us

Contact TSA Maritime Security staff at:

This email address should only be used for routine and non-urgent matters.  Please do not use the above contact email address to report actual or suspicious maritime security incidents or activities, or for urgent or time sensitive inquiries or requests.

Latest revision: 28 January 2015