If you’ve taken a cruise any time in the last couple of decades, you may have noticed your boat isn’t always alone. Many cruisers have had questions about what appear to be Coast Guard boats escorting their chosen cruise ships away from ports before sending them on their way. This article is about to answer some of them.
So, why do the Coast Guard escort cruise ships? The Coast Guard escorts cruise ships as a security measure and to counteract terrorism. This branch of the military is tasked with keeping citizens safe while on the seas, as well as from any type of threat coming from or facilitated by the seas.
An Increased Presence
There’s a reason the question of why Coast Guard escort cruise ships have come up more recently. While there was always some sort of presence of Coast Guard in and around cruise ship ports, that presence has increased since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The attacks of that day lead to what was the largest operation for the homeland security of the country’s cruise ship ports that’s been enforced since World War II. There were 55 Coast Guard cutters, many more hundreds of smaller boats, and 42 aircraft designated for the protection of 350 U.S. ports. Thousands of reservists were also called up to active duty as part of this installation.
Much of the country’s borders are on the water. The escorting of cruise ships is one way to help protect the people entering and exiting the U.S. by sea. It’s a crucial part of the counterterrorism programs that protect this country.
Offshore Emergency Exercises
Something else you might notice is a safety exercise being performed by the Coast Guard, and in conjunction with the cruise ship companies. In these operations, the two entities will work together to conduct a simulated emergency and carry out the steps that would be taken to effectively deal with that type of situation.
The point of these exercises is to make sure that all parties involved are prepared so they know what to do in the case of a real emergency. You’ll see multiple Coast Guard vessels in the immediate area surrounding the cruise ship involved. In some cases, you may see members of the military boarding the cruise ship, depending on what the simulated situation is.
Do Coast Guard Members Board Cruise Ships?
There are times when members of the Coast Guard will actually board a cruise ship. These members are referred to as “Sea Marshals” and have a specific job that often requires them to get on board the boat, but usually only for a short time. They typically get on the boats to perform inspections meant for ensuring the safety of all passengers, as well as to make sure there aren’t crew members causing damage to critical parts of the ship.
When the Sea Marshals are on the boat, they will be assigned to specific areas that should be checked. You’ll often see them sent to the Engine Control Room. Some of them will be tasked with going to the Captain’s Bridge. Most of the time passengers won’t even see these Coast Guard members, however, occasionally they can be seen in hallways they have to use to make it to the Bridge.
Sea Marshals do their best to remain discreet throughout their inspections. For instance, when they are visiting the Bridge, the curtains will be closed keeping passengers from being able to view the room until they’ve completed their tasks. There is an awareness that their presence can be alarming to passengers so they try to keep quiet and perform inspections quickly. On rare occasion, Sea Marshals will be sent to other parts of the ship, such as the buffet or another restaurant. In those cases, most of the time the Marshals entering the dining areas will leave their arms with other members of their team so as not to cause any discomfort to passengers.
Other than for inspections and escorting, Coast Guard members will only board cruise ships to handle an emergency. Should there be a disturbance on the boat, a medical emergency that requires additional assistance to the staff working on the ship, or any type of threat reported by or about the crew, Sea Marshals can and will board a cruise ship.
Authorities of the Coast Guard
The Coast Guard is tasked with patrolling the waterways that allow entrance to the United States. They have been granted the authority to mandate the movements of any sea vessel that enters U.S. territory on the water. If they deem it necessary, they can engage a sea vessel in the water, by air, or at land. They can demand vessels to stop, change course, anchor, and allow boarding by members of their force when the boat is in the jurisdiction of the U.S.
This authority was given to the Coast Guard through the passing of the Ports and Waterway Safety Act, or PWSA, which grants power to the Secretary of Transportation. That power was then assigned to the Coast Guard Captains responsible for each port. Furthermore, title 14, Section 89 of the United States Code gives the Coast Guard the authority needed to board any vessel within the U.S. territory to conduct searches, inspections, ask questions, and even make arrests.
Why Does the Coast Guard Follow Cruise Ships?
The Coast Guard has the responsibility of ensuring all passengers on cruise ships are safe on the seas. If the ship is being followed by a Coast Guard vessel, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is a direct threat to the boat, however, it could.
Passengers can expect to see Coast Guard boats escorting their ships out of and into ports. Should there be an increased risk somewhere that is known to the government, you could notice a Coast Guard cutter or another boat following the ship for some amount of time. Safety of all passengers and crew is the priority for this branch of the military so this is just a measure of protection.
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Protection and Safety
Escorting or following cruise ships is critical to making sure they can pass safely to and from the ports they utilize. It shouldn’t be a detractor for any of the passengers on board. In fact, this should be seen as a positive factor. Cruisers shouldn’t have to worry about their safety, and the Coast Guard is there to ensure they don’t have to. They not only take care in making sure there are no terrorism threats, but they also inspect boats to ensure they meet standards for fire, health, food, and other types of safety categories.
The Wrap Up
If you’ve wondered why Coast Guard escorts cruise ships and maybe thought about being a part of that team, you should see now that it’s an honorable career and one that could be quite exciting for someone who loves the sea. Sea Marshals and other members of the Coast Guard keep U.S. citizens safe from potential hazards, defective ships, and terroristic threats, while at sea. The presence of Coast Guard on our seas and at our coastlines is crucial to the protection of the country and all of its residents, as well as all visitors.
Are there marshals on cruise ships?
The Sea Marshals do board cruise ships as they’re leaving certain ports. They perform their inspections of different parts of the boat and how the engine is functioning. They will go to the Captain’s Bridge where they will perform inspections of equipment and paperwork maintained there. The Marshals will stay in the Bridge until the boat gets three miles from the port. At that point, they will get off the cruise ship and head back to port.
Are there security cameras on cruise ships?
There are security cameras virtually everywhere on cruise ships. Modern technology allows for the monitoring of movements of all passengers at all locations on the boat. There aren’t cameras situated in private cabins, but all of the common areas are monitored by the security staff of the cruise ship. It’s similar to what is installed at airports, casinos, and other establishments. There are cameras on the open decks, in the bars, in the halls, in the restaurants, and anywhere else that is considered public space.
Who regulates the cruise ship industry?
The ships, themselves, meaning the design and their operations are held to the standards set by the International Maritime Organization. This is an establishment that is part of the UN.
That being said, the U.S. Coast Guard has standards set for what has to be met by cruise ships to pass the inspections they conduct before the boats can set sail. If upon inspection, it is found that there are items that don’t meet the passing requirements of the Coast Guard’s standards, the cruise line may be prohibited from launching that boat, and could also be penalized financially or in other manners.
There is more than one agency that has regulating responsibilities for the cruise ship industry. You’ll find that they often overlap in some areas.
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