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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Maritime Security: Cargo carriers and their view

Interesting report from the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) Port Security Seminar held recently:
Even though there are many initiatives and forms of political legislation designed to protect ports, carriers, and shippers in the event of an act of terrorism or natural disaster, the underlying theme is that much more work, planning, resources, and education is needed to make ports truly safe, according to panelists at the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) Port Security Seminar held in Boston last week.

The panel, entitled “Ocean Carrier Perspective on Port Security Challenges,” touched upon what is—and what is not—happening to make ports as safe as possible.
Regarding the issue of 100 percent container examination at the port of origin, which is a major component of the SAFE Ports Act, Hyde said that may be a good thing to strive for some day, but added that “the reality is we are a long way from that.”
From the perspective of ocean carriers, CBP and the Department of Homeland Security, a risk-based, layered approach to security processes is the most efficient way to go about making ports safe, said Hyde.

“You cannot have any one component be the silver bullet [for security], because that does not exist,” he said. “We have to raise the security level a lot on vessels internationally and at the origins we call. There are [more than 700] foreign ports that ship cargo to the United States all the time. So how are you going to establish a regime you are comfortable with at this many ports? Security in an ocean environment needs to be ingrained into everything we do.”

More than anything, Hyde stressed it is important for all involved regulatory bodies and the private sector to “keep the dialog going” with politicians to ensure port security and safety initiatives continue to head in the right direction.
Burke noted that as various facets of the ocean carrier industry continue to be regulated by politicians in Washington that are coming out with legislation he described as ill-advised.

“We don’t do a good job of educating our political people in Washington of what this industry is really all about,” said Burke. “Look at the Dubai fiasco. It is important for our industry to focus in on how do we [best] educate Congress and the Senate to..make them understand that what we do has a tremendous impact on their constituents, our country, and the world?”
“So many times on Capitol Hill staffers are advising politicians on what action to take,” said Burke. “And these staffers often have no port experience or have ever been in a port themselves. We have [to realize] we are not doing a good job of educating politicians. This is the time for us to do it in an election cycle. It is very important for the future of our country. We cannot afford to let politicians to continue to make policy that affects the maritime industry, our international trade, and our standing in the world.”
Educating Congress and its staffs... good idea.

And for proof, here's a related article about a Congressional "5-year Plan" for port security:
In a decision which could potentially have a major impact on how ocean cargo moves through the global supply chain, the conference committee on the 9/11 Commission legislation last week signed off on an amendment that would establish a five-year deadline for 100 percent scanning of all containers before they are loaded up on ships bound for U.S. ports.
At the center of this bill was an amendment introduced by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) that proposed requiring DHS officials to develop a plan with yearly benchmarks leading to 100 percent container scanning at U.S. ports. This amendment was required by the Senate by a 58-38 vote in March. The amendment was also included in the SAFE Ports Act, which passed last October, but it was removed before it was signed into law. It was also included in H.R.1, Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007, but awaits Senate approval.

While the drumbeat for 100 percent container inspection continues, these measures have been largely been rejected on the basis that they would be impossible to implement without harming domestic and global economy operations. ***
While the concept of a five-year deadline is a “great concept,” the transfer from paper to reality could be far more difficult, said Captain Joseph Ahlstrom, professor of maritime transportation at SUNY Maritime College.

“Everyone is on the same page when it comes to security; they all want 100 percent scanning,” said Ahlstrom. “But are we able to do that? The other thing people are waiting to learn is exactly what exactly we will be screening for. Is it chemical agents? Nuclear agents? Some sort of explosives? 100 percent screening of containers where containers can be inspected is one thing, but I would much rather see some sort of system where an alarm will be triggered if there is something suspicious in the containers as they go through.”

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