The U.S. Coast Guard is seeking proposals for a national ship-tracking system that would help identify unusual ship movements that pose security risks.
The tracking system also would monitor the location of vessels of particular interest and enforce security zones.
The Nationwide Automatic Identification System (NAIS) is required by the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (PL 107-295), which mandates that certain vessels use the system while navigating U.S. waters to enable detection and identification.
The Coast Guard announced Jan. 11 that it has received formal approval from the Department of Homeland Security to seek proposals and award contracts to further establish the system.
Dana Goward, the Coast Guard's director of the Maritime Domain Awareness program integration, said most of the major defense contractors have expressed interest in submitting contract proposals for the program. Major defense contractors include Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Harris, SAIC, and CACI.
The Coast Guard and the Naval Sea Logistics Center plan to establish NAIS at 60 critical U.S. ports and coastal areas this fiscal year, according to the Coast Guard. The system as implemented in this first phase will only receive signals. In the second phase, signals will be sent as well.
Also in the second phase, given the go-ahead Jan. 11, the Coast Guard will seek contracts for the design, supply and implementation of a two-way system.
The third and final stage will provide longer range coverage out to 2,000 nautical miles from U.S. shores. The system is expected to be fully operational by 2014, according to the Coast Guard's Web site. "The nationwide automatic identification system will greatly aid the essential process of identifying, tracking, and communicating with vessels approaching our maritime borders and is a centerpiece in establishing effective maritime domain awareness," said Rear Adm. John P. Currier, the Coast Guard's assistant commandant for acquisitions.
The project will require equipment to be installed along the United States' 95,000 miles of coastline and inland rivers. The Coast Guard intends to use a combination of commercial satellites, aircraft, shore-based structures, and equipment installed on existing offshore oil and gas platforms and buoys.
Commercial or government satellites will be used for longer-range coverage. Equipment will be put on and around communications towers and mounted on towers, bridges, buildings and other structures.
The Coast Guard anticipates the majority of the sites will be towers and will give priority to putting equipment on existing structures when they are available.
The agency is evaluating putting the tracking system's structures on offshore oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific and near Alaska, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data buoys. Site-specific environmental review will take place when the sites for equipment installation have been decided.
Eleanor Stables can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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