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Are Airplane Transponders Needed for Recreational Boats?
BoatU.S. Questions Need for Marine Automatic Identification System

Posted Wednesday, December 16, 2009

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ALEXANDRIA, Va., December 10, 2009 - Airplane transponders allow air traffic
controllers to "see" who is in the sky. Yesterday, in speaking before the U.S.
House of Representatives Coast Guard Subcommittee, BoatU.S. testified that any
potential requirement for this type of 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," said
http://www.BoatUS.comVice President of Government Affairs Margaret Podlich.

Marine Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) 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. Since 9/11, the Coast Guard has been tasked by the
Dept. 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," said Podlich. She also mentioned boaters would be forced
to pick up the tab for the AIS units, which currently starts at about $600.

"Even if a would-be terrorist would go to the trouble of complying with an AIS
requirement, they would merely have to pull the AIS unit's electrical plug moments
before the attack," Podlich testified. She also mentioned a terrorist could simply
steal a boat. "AIS does not recognize if people aboard a vessel are on a watch
list." In addition, AIS can be easily "spoofed," or manipulated to make every AIS
transponder in a certain area report inaccurate data.

The Better Solution: America's Waterway Watch

BoatU.S. believes the U.S. Coast Guard would have better results addressing the
small boat threat if the agency's own 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.

"Several government reports have concluded that working with recreational and
commercial vessel operators is a key to increasing our domestic maritime security.
Boaters need to know they have the ability to report to the US Coast Guard when they
see something looks suspicious on the water by calling 1-877-24WATCH. We hope
Congress will bolster this program since it's so critical in reducing the small boat
threat," added Podlich. Additional funding for AWW was written into the Coast Guard
Authorization Act (HR 3619) which passed out of the House last month and is now
awaiting action by the Senate.

To review Podlich's testimony, go to To learn more about
America's Waterway Watch program, go to .

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