Concerns over the security of various ports raised here:
An alleged terror plot with Caribbean roots has raised U.S. concerns about the vulnerability of the region's ports that are used to transit oil, natural gas and millions of American cruise ship passengers each year.More on the report here:
A new report by the investigative arm of Congress describes the "growing influence" of Islamic radical groups as a threat to the Caribbean's maritime security along with more traditional concerns such as organized gangs, illegal migration and drug trafficking.
"The terrorism threat is low in comparison with what's happening every day" in the rest of the world, Stephen Caldwell, the main author of the Government Accountability Office report, said Thursday. "But the Islamic radical threat needs a little more focus down there."
The report, based on information from U.S. agencies and Caribbean government officials, warns of a radical Muslim group that launched a bloody coup attempt in 1990 and says militant organizations including Hezbollah have a presence in such countries as Venezuela and Colombia.
It said Caribbean ports would be vulnerable to attacks because of corruption, lax security and limited resources to maintain equipment. U.S. State Department officials, it noted, have witnessed open, unattended gates and other security gaps at ports where cruise ships dock.
"The threats are not known, but the vulnerabilities are pretty well known and of concern," Caldwell said.
Islands vigorously defend their handling of security at ports that are the point of entry for many tourists.
"The whole country's economy depends on this so we have prioritized," said Anthony Belmar of Grenada's Port Authority, which recently installed close-circuit television cameras among other security upgrades. "It's not something we're sleeping on."
Referred to as our "third border," the Caribbean Basin has significant maritime links with the United States. Given these links and the region's proximity, the United States is particularly interested in ensuring that the ports in the Caribbean Basin--through which goods bound for this country's ports and cruise ships carrying its citizens must travel--are secure.And the report is available in pdf format here. Excerpts:
While intelligence sources report that no specific, credible terrorist threats to maritime
security exist in the Caribbean Basin, the officials we spoke to indicated that there are a number of security concerns that could affect port security in the region. Caribbean ports contain a variety of facilities such as cargo facilities, cruise ship terminals, and facilities that handle petroleum products and liquefied natural gas. Additionally, several Caribbean ports are among the top cruise ship destinations in the world. Given the volume and value of this maritime trade, the facilities and infrastructure of the maritime transportation system may be attractive targets for a terrorist attack. Our prior work on maritime security issues has revealed that the three most likely modes of attack in the port environment are a suicide attack using an explosive-laden vehicle or vessel, a standoff attack using small arms or rockets, and the traditional armed assault. Beyond the types of facilities and modes of attack to be considered, officials we spoke to identified a number of overarching security concerns that relate to the Caribbean Basin as a whole. Among these concerns are (1) the level of corruption that exists in some Caribbean nations to undermine the rule of law in these countries, (2) organized gang activity occurring in proximity to or within port facilities, and (3) the geographic proximity of many Caribbean countries, which has made them transit countries for cocaine and heroin destined for U.S. markets. Other security concerns in the Caribbean Basin mentioned by U.S. agency officials include stowaways, illegal migration, and the growing influence of Islamic radical groups and other foreign terrorist organizations.