BoatU.S. says transponder requirement is impractical

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BoatU.S. officials testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Coast Guard Subcommittee this week that any potential requirement for transponder technology on boats is not practical, nor would it reduce the threat of a waterborne attack.

"Contrary to what Hollywood has portrayed, the average boat in this country is 16 feet. Requiring some type of transponder on recreational boats - many of whom don't even have a battery to power it - would only be window dressing for a potential homeland security problem that will not be reduced, despite the outlay of billions of dollars," BoatU.S.vice president of government affairs Margaret Podlich said in her testimony.

Marine Automatic Identification Systems have long been used as a collision-avoidance tool for commercial ships and provides important vessel identification, position, speed and course information to fellow mariners as well as land-based vessel traffic control systems.

The Coast Guard has been tasked by the Department of Homeland Security to develop a small-boat threat assessment and strategy to reduce the possibility of small watercraft being used by terrorists.

"The challenge with AIS is that it does not provide the ability to reduce the small boat threat," said Podlich. "For starters, the AIS unit on a small boat can simply be turned off. And, more importantly, how could the U.S. Coast Guard monitor the millions of new vessel traffic movements? The monitoring would be overwhelming, on-the-water force response inadequate, and it would be costly to taxpayers to build and operate the system."

She also mentioned boaters would be forced to pick up the tab for the AIS units, which currently starts at about $600.

BoatU.S. suggests the Coast Guard would have better results addressing the small-boat threat if the agency's own America's Waterway Watch program had better funding and infrastructure support. Similar to a neighborhood watch program, America's Waterway Watch treats boaters as part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Additional funding for AWW was written into the Coast Guard Authorization Act, which passed the House last month and is now awaiting action by the Senate.

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