Who sets MARSEC levels?

A few days ago there was an “active shooter” near a shores idea facility. We heard it over 14 VTS. Seems like a good reason to raise a MARSEC level, but only locally. Anyone know offhand who’s in charge of MARSEC levels?

"If the Secretary of Homeland Security issues an NTAS Alert, the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard will adjust MARSEC Level, if appropriate, based on the commensurate risk, any maritime nexus, and/or Commandant consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security. "

The USCG port captain. Then more locally then that your company’s CSO, FSO, VSO.

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The VSO, the Captain, can raise our specific MARSEC level? I don’t know they were that flexible and local.

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Well depending on your vessel security plan, but yea if your captain wants the boat to have stricter security measures it’s within his power, why wouldn’t it be.

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Well, there are security measures, and then there’s MARSEC levels. But I guess when you break it down to simply Maritime Security measures, it sounds much less regulated. I figured MARSEC level is an official status that’s set on some area by some USCG body. Just not sure how big or small that area might be, or who that specific person might be that sets a MARSEC level for, say, all of Puget Sound.

Nope… can be as widespread… or as small as situations call for. When I was working in Nigeria, the company said we were MARSEC 2 at a minimum, but conditions frequently called for upping it to MARSEC 3 on the boat when things got feisty over there, so we did and passed on the info to the company and client when that was the case. That being said, if COTP says it’s 2 for the area, you can’t make it 1 for your boat.

TL;DR: MARSEC isn’t like the terror color codes that are set by the feds. If your boat needs higher, make it higher.

In port, from the ship, the world is divided up into two parts, the ship and the port. The port tells the ship what MARSEC level they are on, the ship cannot be at a lower MARSEC level than the port.

The ship can be on a higher level than the port but that sets off another set of procedures the ship and port must deal with. To avoid that hassle the ship officially stays at the same level as the port but implements the measures of whatever higher level the ship wants. This get logged as “Vessel at MARSEC LEVEL ONE, all MARSEC LEVEL TWO measures in place” or similar, can’t recall the exact wording.


Locally in port, the Captain of the Port (COTP) sets MARSEC but he MAY delegate to a local Port Director in the case of a local incident. For example, if there was a shooter in Fourchon, it would start with the Fourchon Port Police and the COTP would sign off on it later.

Nationally, the Director of the Ministry of Homeland Security sets it through the Commandant of the Coast Guard.

BTW, the Coast Guard is responsible for the Air defense of Washington D.C. Let us hope it is more efficient than NMC. HAHAHAHA!

The USCG does the air defense for D.C.? Talk about bringing a knife to a gunfight. Say it ain’t so.

Take the USCG off air defense and let the Army have it. Reassign the Coast Guard air defense boys to NMC. That would probably triple the size of the staff at NMC.

Allegedly during that dirty bomb scare in Charleston a few weeks ago, the MARSEC level never moved above 1. The port supposedly didn’t even notify the ship on the adjacent berth. Makes me wonder whether the system serves a purpose at all.