(July 8) WASHINGTON, D.C. — On July 1, The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a new series of rules and regulations governing security for ports and vessels.

Secretary of homeland security Tom Ridge said in a news release that the rules were designed to better protect U.S. ports and ships from terrorist attacks.

“With 95% of our nation’s international cargo carried by ship, port security is critical to ensuring our nation’s homeland and economic security,” he said.

The rules focus on those areas that have a higher risk of attack, including tank vessels, barges, cargo vessels and port facilities that handle certain kinds of dangerous cargo.

An estimated 10,000 vessels and 5,000 facilities will be affected. In addition, 2,500 foreign ports will be required to evaluate their security procedures.

The rules, which are interim rules effective immediately until final rules are published in October, require passengers and cargo to be screened before boarding ships in times of heightened alert.

Also, port and ship managers will have to assess their own vulnerability and develop plans to deal with potential risks. To aid in this process, the Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard will develop self-assessment procedures.

To ease identification of ships at sea before they reach harbors, more ships will be required to install automatic identification systems that transmit speed, destination and identification to on-shore monitoring stations and to other ships.

The 30-day comment period on the rules is in effect until the end of July. The Coast Guard will hold a public meeting on July 23 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C., to discuss the rules.

The final rules will be published by Oct. 25. Ports must implement their security plans by July 2004.

The rules can be viewed online in The Federal Register at http://dms.dot.gov.