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New York City’s first line of defense: Boarding ships with the Coast Guard

NEW YORK — As the third busiest port in the country, New York needs a first line of defense on the water and the U.S. Coast Guard fulfills that role.

More than 3 million container ships carrying $200 billion worth of cargo enter the city each year. PIX11 joined a six-member boarding team to inspect an inbound container ship from Egypt.

They traveled through haze and fog for 12 miles to find the 300-foot ship. As the team prepared to board, the Coast Guard Staten Island command center monitored the waterways around the city, acting like air traffic control for the sea.

Captain Jason Tama determines which incoming vessels should be boarded for inspection.

"We’re monitoring thousands of vessel movements," Captain Tama said. "Over 5,000 foreign vessels coming throughout the year."

On any given day, they monitor almost 2,000 movements in the harbor.  They start looking at the ships days before they arrive and examine what countries they've been to, what's on board and who the members of the crew are, among other factors.

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