ISPS compliance and US port calls

Applicability: Shipowners

The Association is grateful to Charles Whited Jr. of Murphy, Rogers, Sloss & Gambel for contributing to this update.

General advice on US port calls

Members will be aware that the United States practices a strict approach to the enforcement of maritime security. It is very important to be fully familiar with the requirements before making a call at a US port or risk significant delay, possible detention, fines, prosecution as well as additional costs such as the need to hire security guards.

The USCG has issued an advisory which lists countries and ports which have been determined not to have effective anti-terrorism measures in place. The USCG is subject to the requirements of the Maritime Transport Security Act of 2002 (MTSA), requiring it to evaluate the effectiveness of such measures in foreign ports. Should such measures be found to be lacking, then the USCG may provide for vessels to comply with certain conditions of entry before being permitted to enter the US (as per MTSA, 46 USC § 70108).

At present, ports from the following countries are on the USCG list:

  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Comoros
  • Cote d’ Ivoire
  • Cuba
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Iran
  • Liberia
  • Madagascar
  • Nigeria
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Syria
  • Timor-Leste
  • Venezuela
  • Yemen

Vessels that are heading to the US and having had one of the above (subject to express port exceptions) in their last five port of calls need to undertake the following steps, as well as any further steps that may be notified by the USCG from time to time:

  1. implement measures as per the ship’s security plan equivalent to Security Level 2
  2. ensure each access point to the ship is guarded, with the guards having total visibility of the vessel’s exterior
  3. attempt to execute a declaration of security
  4. log all security actions in the ship’s security records
  5. report action taken to the cognizant US Coast Guard Captain of the (intended arrival) port prior to arrival in the US

Vessels that have visited any of the listed countries’ ports (subject to any express exception) will be boarded or examined by the USCG for compliance. A failure to comply may lead to a denial of entry in to the United States.

The USCG may also impose conditions on the entry of the vessel to the US and that may include mandating the placing of armed guards on board for the duration of the vessel’s stay in the US.

For member’s reference, the Association is republishing the following Coast Guard document: Port Security Advisory (2-14).

For further information, members are asked to contact the

Christian Ott
Vice President Head of Claims, Skuld Singapore Branch
Loss Prevention and Recurring Claims Team Leader


Please click here to view the USCG Port Security Advisory.


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