News: Up to Code: US Coast Guard trains Iraqi port security officers
Story by Staff Sgt. Cody Harding
BASRA, Iraq – To assist the Government of Iraq in attaining compliance with international standards, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Port Advisory Coordination Element held Iraq’s first ever Port Facility Security Officer Course at the Arabian Gulf Maritime Academy in Basra on Dec. 7.
Twenty students attended the three day class covering a number of security topics culminating with a security exercise.
The Iraqi students learned about International Shipping and Port Facility Security Code requirements with a focus on developing formal security plans.
The ISPS Code was instituted by the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the recognition of the need to improve the security of ships and port facilities around the world.
One of the largest challenges in the implementation of the ISPS Code in Iraq is the lack of a centralized maritime authority with regulatory oversight of the ports, said Cmdr. Jim Robertson, the PACE officer in charge.
“Our biggest problem is that currently, we have 13 different ministries who have some operational ownership of Iraq’s ports,” Robertson, a Juneau, Alaska, resident said. “So we have a lot of competing entities fighting for their piece of the pie.”
Another hurdle in the way is preparing the ports for increased international investment and a greater number of trading partners coming to the table, as well as increased development and upgrades of port facility infrastructure, according to Najm Sager, the ISPS director at the Umm Qasr Port.
“We have security measures in place, but they are not up to international standards and templates,” Sager said. “And I think once we get our certificate from the government, the world will be more attracted to conducting business in Iraq through the noticeable increases in stability and day to day port operation efficiency as a result of ISPS Code compliance. Iraq is coming into a great deal of commercial opportunities in the future, so if we enhance the security environment in our ports, this will bring more and more business to the ports.”
It is hoped the Port Facility Security officers attending the USCG’s course will apply the skills to implement ISPS at their respective ports.
The efforts to bring Iraq up to international shipping standards are worth the investment, according to Robertson.
“I’ve always felt that this is one of the most important missions in theater,” Robertson said. “If this course lights the fire of compliance in a few, they will be the security pathfinders for Iraq’s seaport community. The PACE Team will continue working alongside the Government of Iraq and key stakeholders within the ports as they move forward to build a port security network.”
“Ultimately, the people of Iraq will benefit tremendously from the shared gains of improved port security and greater stability, which will reduce the costs of imported goods and stimulate Iraq’s economy,” Robertson added.
“We have the intention to follow up and to go back to the international community,” Sager said. “This is one of the good steps that we’ve achieved over the three days. This course is the next logical and practical step in meeting the international standards and was very rich with the right information for our future success in the security of our nation’s ports.”
“I am very excited that this will positively affect Iraq’s participation in the international community, and it will continue to bring more business to the Iraqi people.”