The United States is the world's largest trading nation. Ships carry 95% of the volume and 75% of the value of our imports. Some 350 seaports dot the 95,000 miles of U.S. coastline, though about 50 move 93% of U.S. trade.
By their nature, seaports are convergence points for a wide variety of social, economic, and industrial interactivity. The largest ports are imbedded in urban areas containing the markets and supporting infrastructure for moving goods across the land-sea interface. This concentration of human activity and economic power makes seaports ideal targets for terrorists.
Seaport security has been a national concern for nearly as long as the republic has existed. In the early years the concern was for accident-free navigation within coastal waters and harbors, detection and prohibition of contraband, and in wartime, protection against overt and covert enemy actions. Over the years, many federal agencies have shared responsibilities for the safety of our ports. Today, the Coast Guard is the nation's first line of defense for coastal and seaport security.