Maritime security threats are an ever-increasing concern for ports operating around the globe. Threats can come from natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and other types of storms. Then there are manmade threats, such as enemy states or terrorist groups with the goal and purpose of causing mass casualties, wide spread damage, economic disruption, and/or they are looking to push their political agenda(s). Although ports must be prepared for natural disasters, it is manmade threats that worry local, state, and federal agencies having to safeguard American ports. The threats faced by terrorists are conventional attacks, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) attacks, as well as criminal activities like drug and human trafficking. With that, Bakir (2007) states that “Port security is analyzed under four headings: cargo security, access to secure areas, cruise lines, and security around the port perimeters.”
Today, the emphasis put on cargo security around the globe is extremely high. Companies are concerned with streamlining efficiency while also trying to keep the contents of their containers secured and free of hazardous threats, i.e. explosives and chemical weapons. Cargo containers and the security thereof is seen as the “trojan horse” of threats when it comes to port security, but as was stated it is not the only concern. The access to secure areas around maritime ports is critical. The USA Patriot Act of 2001 requires background checks for anyone that is transporting hazardous materials in and out of ports. Later, this was customized to include the maritime environment by the Maritime Transportation Act of 2002. “The act requires issuance of transportation security cards with biometric information and an overall background check for all workers employed at maritime ports” (Bakir, 2007). This will help keep criminals and terrorists out of our gates, but what about the perimeters? The security in and around our port perimeters is provided by port police and the U.S. Coast Guard. Their maritime presence is vital in deterring criminal activity not just around our ports, but also around densely populated areas, critical infrastructures, bridges, and important water ways. As for cruise liners, they’re not as likely to be hijacked in America today. However, with thousands of passengers as potential casualties and the economic damages that could be incurred from an attack could still be enticing enough for terrorists. Therefore, since 9/11 the U.S. Coast Guard strictly enforces the screening of passengers and luggage, screening of passenger lists against criminal watch lists, restricting access to secure areas in the port and on vessels, maintaining a 100-yard security zone around cruise ships, and underwater surveillance at high risk ports (Bakir, 2007). Finally, the local and federal government isn’t doing it alone. The growing relationships and partnerships between intergovernmental agencies and public-private companies is becoming the norm in securing our ports. For example, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in Florida partially augments the private security detail at the Port of Jacksonville (Kubo, 2008). This uniquely diverse partnership has brought about more professionalism, accountability, and improved capabilities to respond to emergencies in and around their port.
The threat to the MTS (maritime transportations system are many. One of the dangers is the threat of piracy. Piracy is the attack on ships at sea. The areas in which this usually happens is the Far East and some in Central America. These are the areas “Indonesia, Malacca Straits, Malaysia, Singapore Straits, and the South China Sea. Other geographical locations with reported cases include India, Philippines, Bangladesh, Gulf of Aden, Colombia, Venezuela, Vietnam, Red Sea, and the Dominican Republic (Bakir, 2007, p. 6)”. The amount of piracy is more than reported because many companies are afraid of insurance premiums going up. Many times before one would think pirates were primitive, but now the pirates are making investments in technology the use of surveillance equipment, and automatic weapons. However, not only has new technology has helped but the corruption of officials is another way piracy is affected. It is estimated that when looted the valued of the cargo affected ranged from $8 million to $200 million.
To fight piracy on the high seas, many of the cargo ships are now getting outfitted with water cannons for a start, Other things the companies are doing to protect itself from pirates is to train the crew in ways to fight the pirates. The crews are now being armed to fight the pirates now. One of the problems that companies run into is boundaries. Some countries do not have strong maritime authorities like the United States. So the pirates can get away by just making it to another country territorial waters since the far eastern countries do not have a binding resolution turning over the criminals to the country in which the crime was committed.
Another threat which maritime faces are the threat of Chemical and Nuclear weapons in containers or the danger to ports since the 9/11 attacks. Since the attack of 9/11, most of the attention was put on airport security since the attack was made by airplanes. Doing that there was a lack of awareness and a lack of funding put toward port security. Since the Middle East, and Eastern Europe have become more unstable the threat from a dirty bomb has increased. One ship which was attacked was the U.S.S. Cole back in 2000. (Bakir, 2007, p. 7) Since at any given time there are cargo ships moving containers the security of these ports have become a priority. However, to fight this new technology has been put in place to fight against the threats. The things put in place at the ports which have been put in place are X-ray and radiation portal Monitors which allow containers to be examined when cargo arrives in ports in at a faster rate and more in quantity. The use of Intelligent video systems is being used to scan a large number of containers and will alert officials when an unauthorized person comes in the area. Another technology being used at the ports is the use of Crane-mounted sensors which is used to detect chemical or radioactive material in containers (Port security: top threats and technology trends, 2006).