Richard J. Ferraro

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Richard Ferraro is a marine safety, security and environmental protection professional with 37 years of experience in both the public and private sector. While in the U.S. Coast Guard marine safety field he was responsible for the management of ship inspection programs, major marine casualty responses and investigations; ensuring that shipping satisfied U.S. and International Maritime Organization (IMO) requirements for marine safety, security and environmental protection. As a highly regarded maritime expert, he has held pivotal roles in various projects with many top merchant shipping firms and a large Flag Administration, in the provision of safety advice, training, security and quality management regimes and services. With a strong background in U.S. government maritime policy and regulation and a close connection to the International Maritime Organization, Mr. Ferraro is recognized as an authority on new maritime legislation, and the current industry trends to include SOLAS, the ILO Maritime Labor Convention 2006, the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention, MARPOL.

Recently, his consultancy services were provided to the U.S. State Department, Military Sealift Command (MSC) and team member status with several trans-national industrial consulting groups, and private ship operating companies. From 2014 to present has conducted Maritime Port and Harbor Security Management course assessment and training events for the U.S. State Department Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) program in the Maldives, India, Colombia, Senegal, Trinidad, Jordan, Tunisia and Bangladesh. Work with trans-national consulting firms looked at establishing maritime schools for shipboard personnel (credentialing) and maritime safety in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East. As a team member, developed a strategy and conducted a fleet-wide safety assessment for the MSC.

He holds a Masters License (USCG), an MBA from Cal Polytechnic State University (with distinction)and a BA from Whittier College, CA. Mr. Ferraro is authorized as an instructor for Lloyd’s Register Group on topics that include the ISPS Code, ISM Code, BWM requirements, Risk Management, Marine Casualty Investigations, Steel Hull Damage and Repair, Classification and Statutory Requirements, Sustainability in Shipping and CSR, Management Systems/Auditing, and the offshore Safety and Environmental Managements System (SEMS) regulations. Mr. Ferraro is considered a preferred public speaker, and has provided papers at venues that include MarineLog conferences, ACI conferences, American Press Club, testimony in various formal Marine Investigation settings (USCG and NTSB), IMO events within the Caribbean region, Propeller Clubs, and maritime union conferences (AMM). Mr. Ferraro has also been engaged as an Expert Witness in a variety of maritime cases.

Hector Avella

Hector Avella is a maritime safety & security consultant with extensive operational domestic & international experience. He brings more than 21 years of leadership & proven job performance in the U.S. Coast Guard. Mr. Avella’ Coast Guard operational career spans over diverse and challenging mission areas, including: search & rescue, maritime law enforcement (counterdrug operations, illegal migrants,fisheries, recreational boating), marine safety & security (port operations, incident command, oil pollution/HAZMAT response & marine inspections), international capacity building (Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia & Panama).

Mr. Avella was assigned to the USMC Special Operations Group, Camp Lejeune, NC where he integrated with Riverine Training Teams deployed to South America, and also served as the USCG Attaché, U.S. Embassy, Panama City, Panama. Before retiring, he was assigned as Chief, Facilities Security Division, where he was responsible for the implementation of post 9/11 Marine Transportation Security Act (MTSA) & the International Ship & Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) for the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach. Mr. Avella served 13 months as a maritime advisor the government of Equatorial Guinea (EG). He is currently a lead instructor for the U.S. Department of State delivering Maritime Port & Harbor Security Management & Maritime Interdiction of Terrorism courses.

Heath Hartley

Heath Hartley is a maritime safety,security,and environmental protection specialist with over 22 years experience in the United States Coast Guard. Most recently,Mr. Hartley served as Prevention Department Head at Coast Guard Sector Charleston, SC where he was responsible for 100+ military and civilian personnel in carrying out all Prevention Operation Activities from Little River, SC to the Savannah River,GA including commercial vessel inspection,marine casualty investigation,waterways management of the marine transportation system, port safety and security of maritime facilities,and responsibility for maintaining maritime aids to navigation throughout the Captain of the Port (COTP) zone. He held titles of Officer in Charge,Marine Inspection (By direction) and Captain of the Port (By direction) and routinely advised the Federal Maritime Security Coordinator and Federal On-Scene Coordinator on all matters pertaining to the COTP zone. As Department Head,Mr.Hartley directed several key port security reciprocal visit engagements with authorities from the United Arab Emirates and Jamaica developing stronger partnerships while bolstering international port security and foreign allied regimes.

As a career Marine Safety/Prevention Officer,he has held numerous key positions in strategic ports across the nation;Executive Officer of Marine Safety Unit Paducah,KY, the hub of the nation’s Inland Waterways System,Chief of Inspections in Valdez,AK , responsible for tank vessel inspection oversight of the nation’s largest oil loading port, and Chief of Operations in Tampa,FL,responsible for implementation of the sweeping 2002 MTSA Act,marine safety and waterways management of the 10th largest port in the nation.Mr.Hartley has seasoned experience in incident management and contingency operations across blue water and Western Rivers environments. He has served in critical ICS roles during national and regional emergencies including Deepwater Horizon,the 201O Haiti Earthquake, numerous oil spill responses and chemical releases as well as a multitude of natural disasters and hurricanes spanning the Gulf of Mexico and Eastern Seaboard. Additionally, Mr. Hartley completed prestigious Marine Industry Training program in 2008 with a leading passenger vessel corporation on the Great Lakes and East Coast overseeing safety,security and environmental compliance improvements company-wide.

Mr. Hartley is a graduate of East Carolina University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Education and has completed numerous formal courses and training in various subjects including: passenger vessel,general cargo and LNG shipping,tanker operations, facility operations,marine firefighting,Incident Command System, naval engineering,anti-terrorism, oil spill cleanup, port security operations,leadership, diversity and communication.

Ron Gorsline

Mr. Gorsline started a Security Consulting company to address the US Government and Commercial Maritime Security sectors. Mr. Gorsline Started SOS after leaving G2-Ops where he was the director of Operations. Prior to arriving at G2OPS he was the MCO/Seafaring Vice President of Operations. A small security company providing technical security support to the oil and gas industry, major maritime companies, and associated facilities. MCO/Seafaring Security Services specializes in using cutting-edge technologies such as video analytics, intrusion detection, radar, and remote sensor packages enhancing maritime domain awareness on board vessels, in port facilities in the marine industry.

As a consultant he provided services which focused specifically on inter-modal transportation security issues. The core service was to ensure compliance with, and management of security regulatory requirements for vessels and facilities. Additionally, he provided trusted agent services to vessel, and port operators to develop and support programmatic infrastructure to meet security regulatory requirements.

Mr. Gorsline is a twenty year US Navy SEAL veteran with a wide array of training and operational experience in Maritime Security. He has worked as close personal protection for high level VIPs conducting surveillance and counter surveillance training and operations for various US Government Agencies. He has carried out ship and port security vulnerability assessments in accordance with governing regulations to include ISPS and MTSA. He developed ship and port security plans for several passenger cruise lines and container shipping companies. Mr. Gorsline has provided training to several police SWAT units in Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) operations to become proficient in conducting ship take downs. He has also assisted in the training Maryland’s Calvert County Sheriff’s SWAT unit in support of the Cove Point LNG Platform. Mr. Gorsline has provided security analysis on proposed sites for Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) terminals in Rhode Island and Massachusetts for the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office. He also provided Maritime Security Consulting services for Nova Chemicals, on the Ohio River in Western Pennsylvania. Additionally, he has conducted port security assessments in Mina Sulman Manama Bahrain, Mombasa Kenya, all ports in Latvia, Puerto Bolivar Colombia.

Mr. Gorsline as part of a security management group coordinated and managed security for the Marcellus Shale Coalition conference held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. This was a high profile conference that was targeted by protectors to disrupt the conference to condemn Fracking.

Paul A. Garcia

Paul A. Garcia is President and Chief Executive Officer of M4 Consulting managing all aspects of business and contract development for clients in the U.S. commercial sector, U.S. military and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) arena, and general domestic and international business development sectors.

He previously served as Executive Vice President of Maritime Security Solutions, Inc. (MSS) and with L-3 Communications Government Services Inc. as project manager supporting the Navy’s MK-41 VLS production requirements, requisitions, and procurement program for launchers and canisters.

Mr. Garcia continues to fulfill a support contract as the Chief Contracting Officer (CCO) providing Contracting/Govt. Liaison/Business Strategist support services for the progressive growth of the world’s largest and most advanced combat helmet manufacturer located in Hebron, Ohio; ArmorSource LLC.

Mr. Garcia is a retired 23-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard. With career milestones that include Government Contracting Officer/Comptroller, FMS Program Manager for International Affairs, and Maritime Law Enforcement Boarding Officer and Tactical Training Officer. He holds degrees in Project Management (MSM) and Business Management (BBA) from the University of Management and Technology, Virginia and Thomas Edison State College, New Jersey, and. He is certified in construction, service-based, and procurement contracting and is a graduate of the Systems Acquisition Management Course, Defense Acquisition University, Fort Belvoir; and, the Defense Institute for Security Assistance Management.

Marvin Pontiff


Captain Marv Pontiff is a maritime safety and security management professional with over 40 years’ experience. Building upon a life-long interest in maritime safety, port security, environmental resource management and protection, and disaster emergency preparedness, he has worked successfully with all segments of the commercial marine industry and with local, state, and federal government agencies to facilitate maritime commerce safely and in concert with ocean and coastal environments.

Most recently, Captain Pontiff worked with several government contractor teams in training development and delivery, as well as exercise logistics. Early in 2018, he was part of a travel team delivering counter-proliferation training and exercises on behalf of the US Department of Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to the partner nation of Sri Lanka. The previous year, he developed similar exercises for the Philippines and Vietnam.  Prior to his work with DTRA, Captain Pontiff conducted anti-terrorism training, contingency planning, and assisted with port security exercise development for the Department of State in the Middle East and Caribbean regions.

Formerly the Assistant Deputy Commissioner at the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, Office of Ocean and Coastal Management, Captain Pontiff was an integral member of the leadership team there administering the state’s NOAA-approved coastal zone management program. Prior to that position, he served as the US Director of Safety and Security for Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), Inc., second largest ocean container ship operator in the world as well as a major passenger cruise ship line where he was responsible for performing safety and security audits on MSC vessels calling at 10 different US ports. He continues to stay abreast of international security requirements and performs contract vessel security audits and risk assessments from time to time.

Before joining MSC, Captain Pontiff was the Coast Guard’s commercial vessel inspection national program manager, retiring from the Coast Guard in July 1999. Throughout his 24-year Coast Guard career, he served at Marine Safety Offices in Port Arthur, Texas; Norfolk, Virginia; Honolulu, Hawaii; and at USCG Headquarters, in Washington, DC. Captain Pontiff was Captain of the Port in Charleston in the late 1990s and held the additional titles of Officer in Charge, Marine Inspection and Federal On-Scene Coordinator for oil and hazardous materials spills in coastal South Carolina.

Captain Pontiff holds a Masters Degree in Public Administration from the University of Charleston/University of South Carolina joint graduate school program; a Masters Degree in Business Administration from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia; and a Bachelors Degree in Government from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.

Kevin Keeler

A native Floridian, Kevin completed his 20 year Coast Guard career in 2004 retiring as a Chief Boatswains Mate.  Upon his retirement Kevin accepted a position internationally as a maritime training specialist and moved to Baku, Azerbaijan in the latter part of 2004.  He designed and implemented a maritime program for the country’s Coast Guard, stressing law enforcement, security and ship boarding procedures.  After leaving Azerbaijan in 2005, Kevin provided anti-piracy instruction on behalf of the U.S. Department of State to the Kenyan National Police in Nairobi, Kenya, the Federal Police Academy in Islamabad, Pakistan, and the Manila Police Force in Manila, Philippines.  While in Kenya, Kevin was selected as the U.S. Department of State’s Senior Maritime Advisor working with the Kenyan Maritime Police Unit and Kenyan Port Authorities where he remained until 2007.

In 2008 Kevin spearheaded projects and developed maritime procedures for companies in, Equatorial Guinea and Sri Lanka until accepting a Project Manager position with MSA Security in Abu Dhabi, UAE from 2009 until 2012.  Kevin managed a multi-platform maritime training program as well as initiating business development relationships.  After completing his assignment in Abu Dhabi, Kevin accepted a position in 2013 in Beirut, Lebanon as the Senior Maritime Advisor managing a team in developing curriculum and instructing in Vessel operations and port security management.  He was promoted to Operations Manager in 2015 and remained in Lebanon until late 2016.  During this time Kevin obtained his Merchant Mariner Credentials and also maintained his qualification as an instructor for the Department of State Anti-Terrorism program. Kevin led teams in the instruction of Port and Harbor Security Management and Maritime Interdiction of Terrorism courses in Buenaventura, Colombia, Barranquilla, Colombia, Kingston, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Dakar, Senegal, and Tunis, Tunisia.  Kevin was recently selected as the US Dept of State’s, Export Control and Border (ExBS) Security Maritime Advisor in Kyiv, Ukraine where he resides today.  With over 30 years of national and international maritime experience, Kevin continues to promote multi-cultural training in the growing maritime security field.

Scott Bernat

Scott Bernat is a leading consultant and globally recognized subject matter expert on maritime anti-terrorism, investigations, security and intelligence. As a Special Agent with the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) he operated throughout Asia, Europe and the Middle East, routinely providing security operational support and guidance to the US Department of Defense (DoD) Conventional and Special Operations forces, US Military Sealift Command (MSC) Civilian Maritime Fleet and US Departments of State (DoS) and Justice (DoJ). Notable assignments included the USS George Washington (CVN 73) Battle Group (Law Enforcement and Security Advisor), Naval Special Warfare (SEAL) (Force Protection and Counterintelligence Advisor), US Seventh Fleet (Law Enforcement, Counterintelligence and Security Advisor) and Force Protection Detachments (FPDs) in Thailand and Indonesia (Security Advisor – Anti-Terrorism, Counterintelligence, Law Enforcement). His consulting work for select US and International maritime and energy industry clients in high threat areas has focused on crisis management and business continuity, investigative assistance, physical security program design and evaluation, and the development of associated training and compliance programs. His expertise in Maritime Port and Harbor Security Management has been utilized since 2014 by the DoS Anti-Terrorism Training Assistance (ATA) program in Brazil, India, Jamaica, Jordan and the Philippines. Mr. Bernat is a published author and speaker on global safety and security programs.