Division of Ocean Sciences - Fall/Winter 2001 Newsletter
NSF 02-055
(Replaces NSF 01-127)

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OCE Guidelines for Fleet Security


Isolated incidents of crime and piracy against UNOLS ships are not new. Most recently, the R/V Ewing was threatened by weapon-carrying individuals who approached in a small boat 18 miles off the coast of Somalia in late August 2001. Unfortunately, such incidents against ships worldwide have increased significantly in recent years. Overlaying this are the potential dangers from terrorism and proximity to war zones, which have also become highly visible issues.

Before submitting a proposal to NSF, Principal Investigators should carefully consider regions of potential danger when proposing a cruise strategy. Wherever possible, cruises should be planned to avoid regions for which research vessels are not automatically insured through their existing global coverage insurance policies. These war exclusion zones are the coastal waters adjacent to countries with significant political instability or active warring factions. Various websites and newsletters provide frequent updates on crime and piracy incidents (e.g., http://pollux.nss.nima.mil/onit/onit_j_main.html). Territories for which the State Department has posted warnings to travelers (http://www.travel.state.gov) are also of concern. The UNOLS web site provides links to these and other useful sites (http://www.unols.org/rvoc/security.html) and will keep track of war exclusion zones. Bear in mind that the vast majority of criminal acts perpetrated on ships and their personnel occur on or near land (e.g., traveling between ship and airport or dockside). Attacks at sea, out of sight of land, are rare.

The Division of Ocean Sciences currently advises reviewers and panelists not to introduce issues of security as a criterion in the proposal merit review. We recognize that the security status of regions can change rapidly, and most proposed cruises would occur a year or two beyond the proposal review period. Proposals recommended for funding that require cruises to locations considered a security risk, such as those areas not covered automatically by the worldwide insurance of the ship operator, will be held until a determination is made regarding insurance and security. If parts of the proposal are independent of the cruise, those parts can be funded.

Ship operators are responsible for the general safety of the cruise, which includes the ship, crew and science complement. Thus NSF does not require operators to sail to regions or enter ports they deem unsafe. NSF will not support cruises in areas where war risk insurance is unavailable, or is available at excessive premiums.

In sufficient time prior to ship scheduling meetings (which begin early in the summer of the year preceding the cruise), the ship operator will be asked to indicate willingness to undertake the planned cruise. If the operator agrees to schedule the cruise, NSF will make a final determination to support the cruise based on (1) a security review made in consultation with relevant federal offices (Office of Naval Intelligence, Maritime Administration of the Department of Transportation, US Coast Guard, Oceanographer of the Navy, State Department), and (2) additional cost of insurance, if available, and cost of any additional security measures recommended. Any additional costs will be weighed in the context of other program fiscal constraints. Cruise safety will be reevaluated prior to ship sailing, and the chief scientist should have a well defined alternate cruise plan in case last minute changes are required in the cruise schedule. NSF will continue to support safety and security training aboard UNOLS vessels.

For inquiries related to these guidelines, please contact Holly Smith (hesmith@nsf.gov) who will direct questions to appropriate Program Directors for ship and scientific issues.

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