Port and Container Ship Security
Jennifer L. Rodriguez
July 15, 2012
Table of Contents
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1. Economic Impact
2. High Visibility/High Causalities
3. Ease of Attack
Since the 9/11 attacks, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has increased
security measures at airports that are continuously scrutinized. However, it appears on
the surface there is a disregard of the protection of seaports and container ships to
include early warning and response protocols. There are millions of pounds of cargo
entering the United States every day with ninety percent arriving through its seaports.
Inspection of approximately one percent of this cargo occurred in 2001, only increasing
to five percent by 2005. Because our way of life requires that cargo entering and
departing the United States remains secure it is even more crucial that sea ports are
properly protected and not open for terroristic attacks. We must have proactive measures
and procedures in place to address and prevent terrorist attacks on United States seaports.
Despite some security advances at our nation’s ports since 9/11, they are still very open
and vulnerable to a terrorist attack that could result in complete devastation.
The ports in the United States are not secure enough and we are still very vulnerable to terroristic attacks. This is significant to the emergency managers and homeland security practitioners because there are with more than 3,700 cargo and passenger terminals (Vesky, 2008). However, a large fraction of maritime cargo is concentrated at few major ports. Most ships calling at U.S. ports are foreign owned with foreign crews. Container ships have been the focus of much of the attention on seaport security because they are seen as vulnerable to terrorist infiltration. More than 9 million marine containers enter U.S. ports each year. While the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) analyzes cargo and other information to target specific shipments for closer inspection, it physically inspects only a small fraction of the containers. Also, a large number of trucks move in and out of ports, making it possible for terrorists to use a truck to bring themselves and their weapons into a port. What are the chances that the maritime transportation system could be used by terrorists to smuggle personnel, weapons of mass destruction, or any other dangerous material into the United States? There is also concern that ships in U.S. ports, particularly large commercial cargo ships or cruise ships, could be attacked by terrorists. However, the major concern is that a large-scale terrorist attack at a U.S. port could not only cause local death and damage, but also paralyze global maritime commerce (Vesky, 2008).
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There is a need for additional security measures to protect our nations ports. For, if
there was a successful attack against a port there would be serious economic and military
damage, and present the enemy with the opportunity to inflict mass casualties, along with
serious long term effects on our economy. Ports, until quite recently, were composed of
infrastructure that was relatively easy to replace or replicate, making them, relatively low
priority targets for an enemy. However, this has changed in the modern era of
containerization and the increased size and technical nature of ships. Ports have become
centers of highly technical, well-integrated infrastructure designed for the rapid loading
and unloading of cargo, an evolution that has become highly complex in the era of
containerization. Commercially efficient, port cargo operations are also highly dependent
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