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GAO Urges Study of PNR for Cruise Security

May 12, 2010 By: George Dooley

Citing the potential risks of terrorist attacks against cruise lines, the General Accountability Office (GAO) has asked the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency to conduct a study to determine if requiring cruise lines to provide passenger reservation data to CBP would benefit homeland security. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agreed with the GAO’s recommendation.

The scope of the study should include potential benefits to security, any need for additional authority and international agreements, resource implications for CBP and the cruise industry, privacy concerns, and any implementation issues related to the automated transfer of Passenger Name Record data from the cruise lines to CBP, the GAO said.

“The Coast Guard, cruise ship and facility operators, and law enforcement officials generally believe waterside attacks are a concern for cruise ships,” the GAO said. “Agency officials and terrorism researchers also identified terrorists boarding a cruise ship as a concern. The Coast Guard has also identified the potential consequences of an attack, which would include potential loss of life and economic effects.  Federal agencies, cruise ship and facility operators, and law enforcement entities have taken various actions to enhance the security of cruise ships and their facilities and implement related laws, regulations, and guidance, and additional actions are under way.”

DHS and component agencies have taken security measures such as the Coast Guard providing escorts of cruise ships during transit, the GAO said. The CBP has also reviewed passenger and crew data to help target passenger inspections. “Cruise ship and cruise ship facility operators' security actions have included developing and implementing security plans, among other things,” the GAO said.

The Coast Guard is also in the process of expanding a program to deter and prevent small vessel attacks, and is developing additional security measures for cruise ships.

The GAO notes that the CBP’s own plans call for improved identification and targeting of potential terrorists through automated advanced information. “CBP, however, has not assessed the cost and benefit of requiring cruise lines to provide passenger reservation data,” the GAO said. A CBP study would determine if additional passenger data is cost effective and if additional actions should be taken to augment security.



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