Ever since the 9/11 attacks, the possibility has loomed that terrorists might slip a bomb or some other deadly device into the United States aboard a ship arriving through one of the nation's 361 sea and river ports....
Oddly, though, for all the hype about homeland security, Congress and the Bush administration have moved slowly to counter this threat, allocating less than 5 cents for water port security for every dollar spent on security measures at airports.
Fortunately, some of that imbalance has now been addressed with the recent imposition of provisions of an international agreement intended to thwart danger to ports globally. Called the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, the new regulations require a host of measures governing operation of ships, maritime personnel and some 8,000 places they dock in the U.S. and abroad.
Ships are required to have security officers, and vessels will be monitored by a radio identification system. Ports must be notified in detail of the contents of incoming cargo shipments 24 hours in advance, and the facilities are getting more guards, fences and closed-circuit cameras for protection. ...
Considering the threat, however, these measures are justified, even though they will cost an estimated $10 billion at ports in the U.S. alone. Given the general lack of security up to this point, some security experts have expressed surprise that an attack
hasn't already taken place at a port. ...
That will mean, inevitably, that shipments of goods will be held up in the coming weeks and months as some ships are refused access to U.S. ports. A little delay, however, is preferable to what might happen if the security measures aren't strictly enforced.
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