The Coast Guard Auxiliary wants these water enthusiasts to be aware of America's Waterway Watch program, a concept similar to the neighborhood watch program. "It's like neighborhood watch on the water," according to John Van Osdol, the Director of Maritime Domain Awareness for the Auxiliary
With over 95,000 miles of shoreline and over 290,000 square miles of water, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and its parent organization - the United States Coast Guard can't be everywhere at once. They need all the eyes and ears of those who frequent our waterways.
The main objective of America's Waterway Watch program is to prevent acts of terrorism and other illegal activity by having members of the commercial and recreational boating industries, as well as the boating public, recognize and report suspicious activities that may be indicators of potential terrorism.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary urges Waterway Watch participants to never take action themselves, other than placing a call to the toll free number, or by taking photographs at a safe distance. All they are asking is that you keep your eyes and ears open.
According to Van Osdol," We're appealing to those who live, work or boat on our waterways; they know the difference between what's normal and what's out of place."
Van Osdol urges boaters to report anything that they think is abnormal or just doesn't look right. Furthermore, he urges them to take notes and let the National Response Center know the "who what when and where" regarding the observation. "If it makes you go 'hmmmmm', report it."
The sorts of details that will be helpful include a description of the individuals, the vessel or vehicle involved and what sort of unusual activity was taking place. Boaters and other water enthusiasts are asked to simply pass that information along using the 1-877-24-WATCH number.
The program has a central phone number, 1-877-24-WATCH (1-877-249-2824), where the public can report suspicious activities. This information goes to the Coast Guard's National Response Center, which is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Some examples of what the Auxiliary is asking the public to be on the lookout for include, but are not limited to the following:
Suspicious persons conducting unusual activities
Unknown persons photographing or making sketches of commercial ports and infrastructures.
Unknown or suspicious persons loitering for extended periods
Unknown vendors attempting to sell or deliver merchandise
Vessels anchored around bridges and dams, or fishing in an area not typically used for fishing
Recovering or tossing items into/onto the waterway or shoreline
Unusual transfer of personnel or items while vessel is moving
Furthermore, the Auxiliary is advising that if anyone observes a situation which is perceived to be an immediate danger, they should contact local authorities by dialing 911, or contact the U.S. Coast Guard on Channel 16 of their VHF-FM radio.