Discussion Questions: There are multiple threats vectors to the world’s maritime transportation system (MTS) and their associated ports from small boat attacks to the possibility of CBRNE attacks. For this forum, consider what these threat vectors are, what challenges are present in detecting these concerns and what security/industry at all levels are doing to address them. You response should be holistic and consider this issue from the strategic, operational and tactical level. Consider the impact and importance of the development of Mega Ports, the widening of the Panama Canal, and the increased use of the western rivers of the United States as a means of moving large quantities of hazardous chemicals. It is imperative that you consider both man-made and natural threats to the MTS.
Instructions: Fully utilize the materials that have been provided to you in order to support your response. Your initial post should be at least 500 words. Please respond to at least two other students. Responses should be a minimum of 250 words and include direct questions. You may challenge, support or supplement another student’s answer using the terms, concepts and theories from the required readings. Also, do not be afraid to respectfully disagree where you feel appropriate; as this should be part of your analysis process at this academic level.
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Recommended Citation Bakir, Niyazi Onur, “A Brief Analysis of Threats and Vulnerabilities in the Maritime Domain” (2007). Non-published Research Reports. Paper 5. http://research.create.usc.edu/nonpublished_reports/5http://research.create.usc.edu?utm_source=research.create.usc.edu%2Fnonpublished_reports%2F5&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPageshttp://research.create.usc.edu/nonpublished_reports?utm_source=research.create.usc.edu%2Fnonpublished_reports%2F5&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPageshttp://research.create.usc.edu/nonpublished_reports?utm_source=research.create.usc.edu%2Fnonpublished_reports%2F5&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPageshttp://research.create.usc.edu/nonpublished_reports/5?utm_source=research.create.usc.edu%2Fnonpublished_reports%2F5&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPagesmailto:email@example.com
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A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF THREATS AND VULNERABILITIES IN THE
MARITIME DOMAIN 1
N.O. BAKIR University of Southern California, Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) 3710 McClintock Avenue, RTH 322, Los Angeles, CA 90089-2902 USA
The attacks of September 11 have exposed the vulnerability of the American homeland
against terrorism. Terrorists have already expressed their intentions to continue their
aggression towards United States. Their goal is to incur maximum economic damage,
inflict mass casualty, spread unprecedented fear among citizens and thus destabilize the
nation to further their agenda. Many critical sites lay across US maritime borders, all of
which could be potential targets to accomplish these goals. All these sites are simple
elements of a complex body where the vulnerability of the whole system is a function
of the vulnerability of the weakest element against an adaptive adversary. Ports, nuclear
facilities, LNG facilities, urban areas, bridges, chemical plants and other critical
infrastructure are all elements of this complex system. In this paper, we review the
current status of security in the American maritime realm and discuss the programs and
initiatives that seek to minimize terrorism risk. Our goal is to direct attention to various
possible avenues that could be used to illegally introduce weapons, explosives and
other contraband as well as to penetrate terrorists into the American homeland.
1 Disclaimer: This research was supported by the United States Department of
Homeland Security through the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism
Events (CREATE) under grant number N00014-05-0630. However, any opinions,
findings, and conclusions or recommendations in this document are those of the
authors and do not necessarily reflect views of the United States Department of
Page 2 of 33
United States (hereafter US) sea borders include 95,000 miles of coastline and 3.4
million square miles 2 of exclusive economic zone. Huge economic value of trade,
number of jobs provided, and a multitude of stakeholders involved render security
along coasts and waterways critical for the American homeland. Port security is the
underpinning of the US economy and a terrorist attack may deliver a serious blow to
supply-chain operations and continuity of business. Besides, terrorists have already
expressed their intentions to target economic lifeline of the US, which raise concerns
that an attack in the maritime domain may be in the making. Despite the efforts after
September 11 (hereafter 9/11) to improve security, US waterways and critical
infrastructure along the borders remain vulnerable to a terrorist attack.
Maritime security is closely related to border security, which requires a systems
approach to protect the American homeland from a terrorist infiltration or attack. The
main objective of border security should be to minimize casualties, injuries and
economic losses due to terrorism, while ensuring flow of commerce, continuity of
business, conserving environment, as well as supporting international partnerships for
research, development, and education. As terrorist strategies are dynamic and terrorists
have shown their capability to develop tactics that are adaptive to new environments,
gaps in border security should be addressed following a comprehensive approach
seeking to reduce the risk at all potential points of illegal entry or a terrorist attack. As
such, to reduce the risk of terrorism along the borders, a systems-based risk
management approach that captures the complex relationship between multiple
elements and their exposure to interdependent risks should be implemented. Such an
approach will produce comparative risk assessments that will help deploy necessary
resources to sites facing the greatest risk, and mitigate exposure to a nationally tolerable
US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has adopted a risk based approach to
counter terrorism. In this context, risk is defined as the cross product of threat,
vulnerability and consequence . Threat is defined as the probability of a terrorist
attack. One can extend this definition to specify the time frame, the location, type of
weapon used and the terrorist groups involved in the attack. Nevertheless, this is the
component of risk that the US administration has relatively less control. Vulnerability is
the probability of damage given that a terrorist attack occurs. Damage can take any
form stated in the border security objective statement, as well as other consequences for
which a widely accepted measure does not exist. Consequences are simply the expected
2 Department of State website, www.state.govhttp://www.state.gov/
Page 3 of 33
damage inflicted from a successful terrorist attack. Following this definition of risk, the
goal in this paper is to discuss what constitutes threat in maritime domain and
vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited by a sophisticated adversary.
Consequence assessments are beyond the scope of this paper.
2. Threats in the Maritime Domain
Terrorism threat from the maritime domain may come in various forms. For example,
weapons or explosives may be concealed in containers, ships may be used as weapons
to destroy critical infrastructure, or terrorists may illegally cross the borders to launch
attacks in the homeland. Terrorists have a wide array of options, which could culminate
into a catastrophic attack. They have already shown their capacity to operate in open
seas successfully for other non-terrorism purposes: piracy, illegal smuggling of
contraband, and illegal human trafficking across the borders. Therefore, they may
utilize the expertise in other forms of maritime crimes that has accumulated over the
years to launch more damaging attacks exploiting vulnerabilities in the global maritime
system. Accordingly, increased capability to respond to each terrorist activity may
prove to be very valuable, and require cooperation between nations.
Although historically not intertwined with terrorism, piracy is reemerging as a serious
threat to impede conduct of global business. In 2003, there were 445 attacks in which
21 crew members were killed, 71 reported missing, and 359 were taken hostage 3 . The
number of attacks dropped to 325 in 2004 with an increase in the death toll from 21 the
previous year to 30. Actual figures may be far more disturbing. Shipping companies
tend to underreport the incidents due to fears of increasing insurance premiums and
lengthy investigations that may result in loss of reputation. As Singapore’s Deputy
Prime Minister, Tony Tan, said, “piracy is entering a new phase; recent attacks have
been conducted with almost military precision. The perpetrators are well-trained, and
have well laid out plans.”  Annual cost of lost cargo has risen to $16 billion, mainly
due to piracy, truck hijacking, and theft around the ports.
Pirates have excelled in hijacking ships over the years. Once the ship is hijacked,
“turning it into a phantom ship, erasing its original identity, is relatively easy” . The
ships are then known to be painted at remote docks and given a completely new
identity. A relatively simple way to do this is getting a new registry by changing flags
3 Annuals statistics released by International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
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in “flag-of-convenience” countries 4 . The fleets of these countries are growing.
Registration standards in these countries are relatively lax and there are no requirements
on the nationality of crew members. Most “flag-of-convenience” ships are relatively
unprotected against piracy. In 2003, 63% of all losses in absolute tonnage were
accounted for by just 13 FOC registers. 5 These characteristics of flag-of-convenience
ships render them and their cargo high risk.
There is minimal law enforcement in international waters that pirates are known to be
operating. Most piracy incidents take place in the Far East, in regions such as
Indonesia, Malacca Straits, Malaysia, Singapore Straits, and South China Sea. Other
geographical locations with reported cases include India, Philippines, Bangladesh, Gulf
of Aden, Colombia, Venezuela, Vietnam, Red Sea, and Dominican Republic. Most of
these countries have minimal resources for maritime patrolling and long coastlines,
granting the freedom of looting to pirates. Corruption among maritime officials also
adds to the complexity of law enforcement in these waters. Modern pirates use
technology for vessel surveillance, automatic weapons, and motorized boats to hijack
ships with valuable cargo. Investment in this technology is easily justified with
potential loots that range from $8 million to $200 million per vessel . This is also a
good financing source for terrorist operations and a catalyst in developing the inter-
connection between piracy and terrorism.
There is minimal cooperation between nations to combat piracy, and each country is
responsible to enforce the law in their territorial waters. Pirates have a good
understanding of their operational environment. They usually elude maritime officials
by crossing national sea boundaries and exploit vulnerabilities due to lack of
information sharing and international cooperation. The Malaysian Maritime
Enforcement Center stated: “Under no circumstances would we intrude into each
other’s territory. If we chase a ship and it runs into the other side, we let the authorities
there handle it.”  Therefore, penalizing maritime criminals is quite difficult. It
requires arrest authority unlimited by national boundaries and willingness of authorities
to enforce law in the maritime domain.
4 A “flag-of-convenience” ship is defined as the ship that flies the flag of a country other than the
country of ownership. International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) maintains the list of “flag-of-
5 ITF website: www.itfglobal.orghttp://www.itfglobal.org/
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2.2 ILLEGAL HUMAN AND CONTRABAND TRAFFIC
Another concern is human and drug smuggling across maritime borders. This is
particularly important because terrorists may use similar pathways to sneak illegal
weapons through the border or to deliver a dirty bomb to seaports. Most of maritime
human smuggling operations into US are launched from Caribbean Waters. However,
in recent years an increasing number of Chinese migrants are caught in container ships
at seaports. For instance, in 1999, 259 Chinese migrants aboard the freighter, Wing
Fung Lung, were intercepted while traveling with no bed or sanitation facilities . In
January, 2005, 32 Chinese nationals were found in two shipping containers at the Port
of Los Angeles . Those traveling in containers are usually discovered to be
traveling under miserable conditions. In 2001, Irish Police found a cargo container with
8 dead and 5 sick immigrants . Similarly, in 2000, British Police discovered 58
Chinese nationals in a truck that traveled to England on a ferry, suffocating at the brink
of death. High risks of death do not seem to deter the aliens from seeking illegal entry
into developed countries for the prospects of economic prosperity.
Terrorists may use illegal human trafficking tactics to cross the American borders
without bearing inhumane conditions as other economic migrants. In 2001, a stowaway
was discovered at the Italian port of Gioia Tauro, traveling from Egypt to Canada .
An Egyptian, Rizik Amid Farid, converted a container into a hotel room with a bed,
restroom, enough supplies of food, a laptop computer, two mobile phones, and cameras.
Among his belongings were a Canadian passport and airport security passes, which
aroused the suspicion that he was involved in a terrorist plot to copycat 9/11 attacks.
While this was never confirmed, the incident was a clear indication that terrorists may
enter the US hiding in a container. In 2004, the Israeli port of Ashdod was the location
of a suicide bomb attack by two Palestinians who were able to hide in a container. 6
Like piracy, stowaways are becoming a common phenomenon in the international
maritime domain. In many cases, stowaways board the ship without any recognition
exploiting lax security at seaports, and may actually attempt to hijack the ship. 7 The
crew may not have effective means to confront the problem once a stowaway is found
on the ship. In some cases, stowaways are completely ignored to eliminate the
possibility of an armed confrontation. Most countries refuse to accept stowaways if
they are citizens of another country. Hence, handing stowaways over to port officials
may not be an alternative solution to the problem. The best solution from the
6 The suicide bombers were reportedly members of Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade.
7 One such incident reportedly took place in 2000, when 14 Iranian stowaways hijacked an Italian
Page 6 of 33
perspective of ship crew seeking to minimize trouble on board could be simply ignoring
Drug smuggling is also a part of the problem. Smugglers introduce drugs and other
illegal contraband in small boats or in containerized cargo. It is widely believed that the
multi-billion dollar drug trade has historically exploited low inspection rates on
containers at various ports. Detecting such illegal contraband has been likened to
finding a needle in a haystack. In recent years, approximately 75% of cocaine seizures
by the US Coast Guard took place in the Eastern Pacific 8 . While there has not been any
confirmed explosive or weapon smuggling into the US through maritime borders using
containerized cargo or small boats for terrorism purposes, similar tactics can clearly be
used by terrorists in the future. In 2003, ABC News deliberately sent depleted uranium
in a container from Indonesia, and government screeners failed to detect the nuclear
content. More recently, Armen Barseghyan of Armenia was reportedly charged in an
alleged scheme to smuggle grenade launchers, shoulder-fired missiles, and other
Russian military weapons into the US. A more disturbing aspect of the case is its
discovery by an FBI informant who posed as an Al-Qaeda representative.
2.3 TERRORISM IN THE MARITIME DOMAIN
While terrorists have largely targeted land sites, it has been evident over the course of
recent history that seaborne terrorism poses an unignorable threat. International waters
have long been penetrated by terrorists, and there is virtually no protection for
commercial ships against this growing threat. US vessels are not immune from the rise
of maritime terrorism as shown by the boat attack on naval destroyer, Cole, in 2000. It
is even more disturbing to realize that terrorists having a continuum of options can
sabotage the flow of international trade with relatively less effort than in 9/11. As
terrorists develop their maritime terrorism skills, the probability of launching an attack
with catastrophic consequences on US economic interests will increase. Al-Qaeda has
already stated interest to this end. After the attack on French tanker, Limburg 2002,
Osama Bin Laden released an audio tape in which he stated “By God, the youths of
God are preparing for you things that would fill your hearts with terror and target your
economic lifeline until you stop your oppression and aggression.”
Further intelligence seems to confirm that Al-Qaeda may still be planning attacks on
maritime targets. In 2002, Al-Qaeda’s former chief of naval operations confessed plans
8 United States Coast Guard Fiscal Year 2004 Report.
Page 7 of 33
to attack ships passing through the Strait of Gibraltar. 9 The scheme was later foiled by
Moroccan officials. The alleged mastermind of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Khalid
Shaikh Mohammed, was reportedly involved in a plot to export weapons and
explosives into the US . He was reported to make an offer to an import/export firm
to use their containers for shipping illegal contraband to the New York & New Jersey
port. For years, drug dealers have been known to employ a similar tactic of buying out a
trustworthy shipping company to disguise their shipments . Drug smuggling chains
can be discovered after observing patterns of shipments. However, maritime security
officials have no luxury to observe such patterns to counter terrorism threat because one
successful attempt to evade detection seaports may bring catastrophe.
Al Qaeda is believed to control approximately 15 ships which fly Yemen and Somalia
flags. Other terrorist organizations have been active in the maritime domain for almost
half a century. Most seaborne terrorism attacks were carried out by local groups as
rather isolated incidents seeking to gain independence and oppose the regional
governments. However, there were relatively high profile incidents in the past that
exposed the capability of their perpetrators in successfully operating in the maritime
domain and had political ramifications in the global arena. Some of the terrorist
organizations and other militant groups involved in these incidents are as follows:
● Hezbollah: While Hezbollah is less known with its attacks in this domain, they
were active in laying mines in the Red Sea in mid ’80s to impede access to
Israeli ports. In 1984, they organized a mine attack on the southern entrance of
Suez Canal that hit 19 ships.
● Polisario Front: This militant group whose goal was independence of Western
Sahara was quite active in ’70s and ’80s. Their main targets were Spanish and
Portugese vessels operating off the northwestern coast of Africa. They were
known to carry out direct attacks on their targets with mortar and machine-gun
● IRA: IRA targeted cruise liners and cargo ships in ’70s and ’80s and were
involved with illegal transport of weapons and munitions.
● Palestinian Liberation Front: They hijacked the Italian cruise liner, Achille
Lauro, in 1985 off the Egyptian coast and took 511 passengers hostage
demanding release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel. One American passenger
was killed in this assault.
9 “A Time Bomb for Global Trade: Maritime-related Terrorism in an Age of Weapons of Mass Destruction”, Address by Michael Richardson on September 2004 to the Victorian Branch of the Australian
Institute of International Affairs.
Page 8 of 33
● Abu Nidal: This organization was active in late ’80s in hijacking incidents. In
1987, they captured a French yacht off the coast of Gaza Strip to warn Arab
leaders not to entitle late King Hussein of Jordan to be the representative of
Palestinians in peace talks. All hostages were released at the request of
● Chechen Rebels: In 1996, they hijacked a ferry sailing from a northern port of
Turkey (Trabzon), and demanded withdrawal of Russian troops from a
Daghestani village. After a series of negotiations, the hijackers were later
● Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (a.k.a. Tamil Tigers): This terrorist
organization has been quite active in recent years attacking ships off the coast
of Sri Lanka. While their primary target has been Sri Lankan Navy ships, they
were also involved in attacking Chinese and North Korean ships with the
intent of disrupting maritime traffic in the region. They have singled out
themselves from most other terrorist groups engaged in seaborne terrorism by
using suicide tactics.
● Free Aceh Movement (GAM): Currently, this rebel group has discontinued its
terrorist activities following a peace accord with the Indonesian government.
Before the agreement, they were active in Malacca Straits with relatively small
Besides Al-Qaeda, some other organizations are believed to harbor intentions to launch
seaborne attacks that target United States and its allies. In southeast Asia, where piracy
is rampant, Jemaah Islamiya (JI), Lashkar Jundullah (LJ), and Kampulan Mujahidin
Malaysia (KMM) are among the active terrorist organizations that could potentially
direct their attention to maritime terrorism. Elsewhere, as mentioned in the previous
section, Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade has already shipped two suicide bombers to an
Israeli port disguised in a container. It is expected that terrorism in open seas will
continue be a threat unless radical measures that foster coordination between nations
and intelligence sharing are taken.
3. Vulnerabilities along Maritime Borders and Countermeasures for Risk
The current status of maritime security in the US can be analyzed under two main
categories: port security and security in US waters. The Maritime Transportation
Security Act (MTSA), signed by President Bush on November 25, 2002, was prepared
to address the security of ports and waterways. As a result of this act, maritime security
enforcement responsibility has been mainly assigned to the United States Coast Guard
(USCG), the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Transportation
Security Administration (TSA) under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as
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well as the Maritime Administration (MARAD) under the Department of
Transportation (DOT). The USCG has the lead responsibility in most MTSA
assignments, as well as the security of US waters and coastal targets, while the CBP
assumes a key role in improving security of inbound cargo at maritime ports.
3.1 PORT SECURITY
Seaports are arguably the most critical nodes in the global supply-chain and hence have
a central role in business continuity. They make a huge contribution to the US
economy by facilitating trade and tourism, providing jobs, and supplementing the
energy need. 95% of overseas trade by weight and 75% by value moves through US
seaports. Many critical coastal targets, including petroleum tank farms, hazardous
material storage facilities and factories are located around the ports. Besides, several
major US cities lay in close proximity to waterways and seaports. Therefore, a well-
organized attack at a major US port is likely to inflict high number of casualties and
cause grave nationwide economic damage.
Estimates of the economic impact of a major terrorist attack at a US seaport vary.
Earlier studies predicted that a port closing could cost the economy as high as $1
trillion . A more recent study by Gordon et al.  puts this figure around $45
billion for a dirty bomb attack. For a potential nuclear attack, partially due to higher
level of uncertainty, experts are able to state a wider range for potential consequences.
In a 2003 study , direct trade losses were calculated to be around $100-200 billion
whereas property damage is expected to lie between $50 and $500 billion. A more
disturbing figure is the estimated indirect costs to the economy ranging from $300
billion to $1.4 trillion. On the casualty side, the study group judges that the number
should be between 50,000 and 1,000,000.
Port security has been increasingly intertwined with the security of containerized cargo
in the public and the media. While containers are arguably the “Trojan Horses” of the
modern era, failure to recognize other vulnerabilities may leave the US homeland
unguarded for another surprise attack. In this paper, port security is analyzed under four
headings: cargo security, access to secure areas, cruise lines, and security around the
port perimeters. Most of the discussion centers around the cargo security as monitoring
the contents of containers without interrupting the flow of trade poses tremendous
challenges to both public and private stakeholders. However, as will be evident in the
discussion, there are other forms of weaknesses in port security that are equally
important because any attack on the port facility may trigger a slowdown of cargo
processing and inflict casualties.
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3.1.1 Cargo Security
An estimated number of 10 million containers arrive from overseas to the US each year
. With the current level of technology available at US seaports, 5% of these
incoming containers are screened. Containers are the key medium of goods movement
that made the intermodal transportation possible since ’50s. They enable smooth
transfer of cargo between various modes of transportation. Since the introduction of
containers to global supply-chain arena, goods movement has become more efficient.
However, they reduced the transparency of cargo, which present serious challenges to
security of trade in modern era. Concerns over potential shipment of radiological,
nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in containers rose after 9/11 as nations realized
the nature of terrorism threat confronting them.
Companies today are facing the dilemma of simultaneously achieving efficiency and
security in containerized cargo transportation. While some of the security
improvements implemented by the private sector has the potential advantage of
increasing transparency of cargo, incentives to install a wide variety of technologies
that could provide continuous time monitoring and hence minimize the risk of container
tampering are rather limited. Therefore, public stakeholders have to step in to screen
containers at certain points in the supply-chain network to reduce the likelihood that
harmful cargo reaches its final destination in the US. However, with thousands of
containers moving across the globe each day and intense competition that puts
enormous pressure on companies for timely delivery, fully guaranteeing the security of
cargo is virtually impossible. The problem becomes even more complicated as we
realize that not all cargo is containerized and technologies to screen other various forms
of cargo are very limited.
220.127.116.11 Containerized Cargo. US-bound containerized overseas cargo move through
various phases, all of which present unique security challenges. Issues in container
security can be summarized under five phases: loading phase at the warehouse, land
transportation, port of origin, sea transportation and port of destination.
18.104.22.168.1 Loading Phase at the Warehouse. Terrorists may load illegal weapons and
explosives at the warehouse or distribution center from which the cargo is dispatched.
To achieve this, terrorists may exploit loopholes in physical, personnel and procedural
security of these facilities. Access controls, background checks of employees, security
awareness training, storage of containers, procedures for visitor admission, security of
warehouse perimeters, and standardization of paperwork security should be addressed
properly to reduce the risk of terrorist tampering with containers. Most of these
warehouses are operated by foreign business partners of importers in the US and
located in foreign countries.
Page 11 of 33
Security of international supply-chains has become one of the priorities of the federal
government after 9/11. To enlist cooperation of private stakeholders, the US federal
government unveiled a new initiative, Customs-Trade Partnership against Terrorism (C-
TPAT) in November 2001. C-TPAT is a voluntary program of partnership between the
public organizations and private companies to improve supply-chain security.
Participating companies are required to perform self-assessments of their whole supply-
chain and to develop shipping guidelines for their suppliers. The US government seeks
to employ the private sector’s leverage on their global suppliers to address one of the
most vulnerable phases of container shipment: the loading phase. Governmental bodies
in the US have no control on foreign companies to follow proper guidelines in loading
and transporting goods to the US. Companies can use their buying power to have their
downstream suppliers enforce relevant security measures.
Companies that are interested in becoming a C-TPAT member need to prepare and
submit a supply-chain security profile. The profile should include security assessments
of foreign facilities, cargo movement, and background checks of people across the
supply-chain. Currently, C-TPAT members are granted benefits after CBP reviews the
profile information provided by the company, and the history of compliance with laws
and regulations. For importers, benefits may be granted after this review. If CBP is
convinced that the information provided is reliable and the company has a clean
historical record, then the company starts enjoying benefits. Otherwise, CBP performs
an additional examination that includes on-site visits and meetings with the company
representatives. A final decision is made after this review.
Private sector enjoys reduced and expedited inspections under this program as their
cargo are “low-risk.” Companies are also encouraged to use smart containers as their
standard medium of trade. A potential benefit of smart containers is to eliminate routine
inspections. Reduced delays for shipments are vital for companies who are already
operating under tight profit margins. Members are promised to receive priority
treatment from the federal agencies to process their shipments in the case of an attack.
According to a recent study by Peleg-Gillai, Bhat and Sept , some participants of C-
TPAT have realized the benefits of membership. The study which was based on inputs
from 11 manufacturers and 3 Logistics Service Providers reports that security
improvements resulted in 38 percent reduction in theft/loss/pilferage and 37 percent
reduction in tampering. In addition to improvements in security, participants noted
related benefits that contribute to business value, such as: 49 percent reduction in cargo
delays, 48 percent reduction in cargo inspections, 29 percent reduction in transit time
and 28 percent reduction in delivery time window. This study clearly demonstrates the
potential of C-TPAT membership in increasing supply-chain visibility, resilience and
Page 12 of 33
However, security improvements under C-TPAT program have been limited in
combating terrorism threat. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report
 in 2005 that discusses the weaknesses in implementation. Their review of the
program shows that the validation phase is not based on an independent audit.
Validation is the last phase in CBP review where selected domestic and foreign sites are
visited. The goal is to ensure that the security profile accurately reflects the level of
countermeasures taken at each site to reduce the terrorism risk exposure. GAO
criticizes CBP for not performing a comprehensive review of the security profile.
Besides, the criteria for selection of sites are not clear. Validations will be most
effective when conducted at critical nodes of the supply-chain with high import volume
and at strategic geographic locations where suspected terrorist activity is of concern.
C-TPAT program can be further improved by standardizing the security
countermeasures across the international supply-chain networks. CBP issues
recommendations under the C-TPAT program. However, these recommendations are
not prescriptive and each member may choose different sets of security solutions to
follow the guidelines. Best practices to secure supply-chains should be determined and
applied uniformly to make sure that relative vulnerability of various supply-chains are
minimal. The system’s exposure to terrorism risk is a function of the vulnerability of the
weakest link when facing an adaptive adversary. Reducing risk of tampering on each
supply-chain to a level at par with what the best practices entail will be a powerful
deterrent to those who have aggressive designs on US seaports.
22.214.171.124.2 Land Transportation Phase. This phase starts with the dispatch of the
container from the originating warehouse and ends at the port of origin. Cargo theft
during this phase of transportation is a huge problem that the companies need to
confront in the modern era. Cargo insurers in industrialized nations (Italy, Australia,
Germany, and France, with which the US has extensive overseas trade ties) face
enormous claims from cargo theft every year . More recent statistics suggest that
cargo theft is on the rise in Belgium, Netherlands, France, and United Kingdom. 10
particular, high value cargo that include pharmaceuticals, luxury clothing, electronics,
and computer hardware are also high risk.
During this phase, cargo moves in one of the two modes of transportation: truck or rail.
However, due to economies of scale, the mode of transportation may not remain the
same during travel to the port. Cargo may be transferred from one mode to another
(intermodal transfer), or simply within the same mode (intramodal transfer). Security
10 “September Freight Crime Bulletin from EUROWATCH”, www.cargosecurityinternational.com, 10 October 2005. Other reports published by EUROWATCH earlier in 2005 suggest a similar trend in Spain,
Russia, Ireland and Italy.http://www.cargosecurityinternational.com/
Page 13 of 33
breaches at the transfer points and frequent stops in transit may leave cargo vulnerable
to tampering while they are waiting unattended for the next pick-up. However, due to
caps on daily work hours, truck drivers have to make multiple stops for long distance
hauls. Many cargo theft incidents take place by insider help. Therefore, background
checks on the truck and locomotive drivers are vital to transportation security. Other
challenges to cargo security in this phase include source of funding and tremendous
variety of freight hauled on railroads and highways.
Extending US borders beyond the homeland is part of a layered defensive strategy
against terrorism. C-TPAT extends the borders by cooperating with US companies to
use their leverage on their global trade partners. While, C-TPAT helped improve
security at the loading phase of containers, there is relatively little security
improvement in the transportation phase. Supply-chains may not enjoy a high level of
security during the transportation of US-bound containers in foreign countries as the US
government cannot reach beyond American seaports and foreign private companies
may underinvest in transportation security. Those countries with minimal historical
exposure to terrorism may overlook some of the key security issues. Cargo theft is a
serious issue that companies have been countering for years. The most vulnerable
points for cargo theft are the intermodal transfer locations. Local governments have to
take the initiative to beef up security at these locations, so that terrorists are deterred
from tampering with cargo in transit.
Anti-tamper seals have been developed to ensure integrity of cargo in transit. Although,
most anti-tamper seals are cheap, they have minimal impact on security. In some cases,
terrorists can easily break the seal, and replace it with an identical copy after tampering
. Electronic seals can flag an intrusion once they are broken. Thieves have already
developed the expertise to open containers without breaking ordinary anti-tamper seals
. Electronic seals are relatively new, but it is still possible to open a container
without tampering with these seals. A dirty bomb can be located in a container by
removing the doors completely without breaking the seal . It is claimed that a Sandia
technician can easily pass an electronic seal barrier in a couple of minutes .
Likewise, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and RFID technologies do not ensure the
integrity of containers. Both provide good surveillance as to determine where the
container is and to improve transparency, but this will not be a deterrent to a
sophisticated terrorist. Placing the bomb by partially removing the contents of the
container, it is possible to avoid detection. The current technology does not allow
detection of items that are not tagged. Unless both technologies are made smarter,
terrorists may tamper with the container unnoticed. Installation of electronic sensors in
containers is another option, but this technology is still under the development phase
and the rate of false alarms is high. CBP seeks to reduce the false positive rate to 1% or
Page 14 of 33
less. A stumbling block to widespread use of technology is the cost. For example, some
companies today are hesitant to replace bar codes which cost next to nothing with RFID
tags that cost less than $1 per tag.
In an effort to promote the development of smart containers that external parties cannot
intrude, Office of Domestic Preparedness (ODP) is currently administering a program
called Operation Safe Commerce (OSC). The goals of the program are to increase the
transparency of cargo, employ state-of-the-art technology for inspection, prevent cargo
tampering, and reduce theft. While CSI and C-TPAT seek to reach out foreign ports and
loading facilities to standardize the guidelines for securing container shipments, OSC
seeks to set the standards that should be followed during transportation and when the
cargo reaches US seaports. Use of sensors, seals and other cargo tracking and security
technology are encouraged under this program to identify the best technology and
practices that prevents cargo tampering.
This program initially began as a partnership between government bodies and private
sectors to address vulnerabilities in cargo security. OSC consists of three phases. The
first two phases were completed by the end of 2004, and involved security assessment
of the entire supply-chain. In particular, security assessments at Los Angeles & Long
Beach, Seattle & Tacoma and New York & New Jersey ports were completed along
with a detailed analysis of the vulnerabilities of 19 separate supply-chains. The best
technology and best practices identified in the first two phases are currently subject to
further evaluation in the third phase. If the best practices in various supply-chain risk
assessments are set as industry standards, OSC can have a significant impact on layered
defense against terrorism.
126.96.36.199.3 Port of Origin. After land transportation, cargo reaches the port of origin.
Cargo containers may be stored around the port perimeter before loading on the ship.
Physical security around port perimeters is a concern. In particular, empty containers
may be enticing targets for terrorists planning to plant and ship bombs across the ocean.
Risk of unauthorized access to secure areas in the port and its perimeters with
counterfeit documents or fake ID is another complicating factor in cargo security at
foreign ports. Human element is key to prevent such attempts. Trained port workers
may be able to detect anomalies and respond accordingly. However, in some countries
corruption at customs is a problem.
Security problems may be further compounded by the lack of state-of-the-art inspection
equipment. Due to increased level of competition between seaports, there may not be
enough incentives to inspect outbound cargo. Container Security Initiative (CSI) was
unveiled in 2002 to address this problem. It is an effort to extend US borders to
confront external threats outside the homeland. The main objective is to identify and
Page 15 of 33
pre-screen the containers that pose risks of terrorism at the port of origin. By
implementing this initiative, CBP seeks to reduce the inspections at US ports, thereby
ensuring efficient flow of trade. As of September 2006, 50 operational ports in Europe,
Africa, Asia, and the Americas participate in CSI.
The criteria for expansion to new foreign ports are based on trade volume, location, and
strategic importance. Eligibility of a foreign port into this program requires installation
of non-intrusive inspection (NII) equipment and deployment of trained customs
officials who can perform inspections. US Customs officials visit participating ports
under the initiative to target and pre-screen the containerized cargo. They also visit the
loading facilities to check the security standards. CBP then assembles a CSI team with
members from either CBP or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It is
expected that participating foreign ports are willing to share critical information with
the CBP officials to help target high risk cargo. CBP recognizes that advance
information is the key to security operations. In order to address this issue, the “24-
Hour Rule” was initiated. The rule requires the carriers to report their cargo manifests
24 hours before the cargo leaves the port of origin. This provides the time frame for risk
assessment of cargo.
High risk cargo is selected using Automated Targeting System (ATS) and various
intelligence reports. ATS uses cargo manifest information, targeting rules, shipper, and
customer/importer information to assign each container in a risk category (i.e., low,
medium, high). Intelligence reports and research assistance provided by the National
Targeting Center (NTC) are also checked to make the final decision regarding
inspection of a specific container. The containers with a high risk score are to be
inspected. The medium risk containers are subject to further research. Inspections are
performed by local officials, and a CSI team is given the option to monitor inspections.
Should the officials choose to inspect the cargo, a gamma-ray or X-ray shot of the
container is taken using the Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System (VACIS) to perform
visual detection. Inspectors may decide to open the container and conduct physical
inspections in case they detect anomalies. The decision of physical inspection is
technically given by both CBP and local officials. For nuclear content, radiation
detection devices such as radiation portal monitors (RPMs) are used. The inspection
process as described here may slow down the container flow through seaports. In order
to attract foreign seaports into the initiative, both parties agree that CSI port shipments
will be given the priority in processing; in the case of a terrorist attack that halts port
operations. Likewise, US port authorities may choose to limit their operations to CSI
ports in the case of a minor attack. Accordingly, shipments that originate from non-CSI
ports may experience long delays if a terrorist attack triggers full or partial shutdown of
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Is it possible to locate explosives or illegal weapons in a container owned by a “trusted”
shipper originating from a relatively secure CSI port? Stephen Flynn, a senior fellow in
national security studies at the Council of Foreign Relations, describes one such
scenario in his book, “America the Vulnerable”. In short, terrorists can exploit security
gaps during transportation of containers to a CSI port by loading a dirty bomb at a
railroad facility. They may target a container from a “well-established manufacturer” to
reduce the probability that it’s selected for inspection. According to this scenario, the
shipment originates from Rotterdam. The security breach around this particular port has
been confirmed by the recent drug interdiction incident in Australia. Australian customs
officials seized 370,000 ecstasy tablets in a Melbourne freight warehouse in a shipment
originating from Rotterdam. 11
Other CSI ports have been vulnerable to drug trafficking in recent years. In June, 2002,
a shipment of cannabis that originated from the Port of Antwerp was interdicted in
On December 12, 2003, an ecstasy shipment from the port of Tilbury was
discovered in Sydney. 13
According to a recent report prepared by the National Criminal
Intelligence Service of the United Kingdom, “…the use of feeder vessels to transport
cocaine from Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Hamburg to container ports in southern and
eastern England is known to take place.” Terrorists have also utilized CSI ports for
small arms smuggling in the recent past. According to Jane’s Intelligence Review, an
arms cache shipped from the port of Hong Kong via Singapore was interdicted in
Terrorists may exploit vulnerabilities on inland or maritime shipping
routes to transport weapons and explosives to the US.
There are some other challenges to implementation of the CSI program. The success of
this initiative relies on the level of cooperation provided by the foreign port officials.
According to the current procedure, when high risk cargo is identified, the foreign
customs’ officials are responsible for inspection and US officials are entitled to observe
the inspection process. According to recent reports, US officials’ roles in this inspection
process have been relegated to the review of cargo manifests . Some foreign ports
11 91.7 kg of drugs were hidden in plastic pipes inside eight metal German-made barbecues. Source:
“$18 Million Drug Seizure Like a Needle in a Haystack”, AAP General News Wire, 22 April 2005.
12 Drugs were reportedly discovered in a 40 foot container. Source: “Gardai Question Dutch Man
Following Drug Seizure”, www.irishtrucker.com, 22 July 2002.
13 Total value of the shipment was estimated to be around $16 million. Source: “Counterdrug Press
Summary”, Cubic Analysis Center, 17 November 2004.
14 Insurgent groups northeast India are reportedly tied to the shipment. Source: BurmaNet News, 3
Page 17 of 33
perceive monitoring by US officials as violation of sovereignty. However, observing
the inspection process is an important element of CSI as the US government is unable
to perform background checks for workers at participating ports.
As of September 2004, 65%  of the containers originated from CSI ports (which
constitute 43% of all shipments to the US) have been subject to targeting using ATS,
which implies that the remaining 35% were not subject to any risk assessment and
inspections overseas. GAO attributes this to staffing imbalances at the CSI ports. 72%
of the high risk containers were inspected overseas, and the rest were denied inspection
based on a variety of reasons. Of the remaining 28%, 93% were inspected upon arrival
at a US port. The remaining 7% were not subject to any inspection due to a lowered risk
score based on further incoming intelligence, or because the port of destination was
other than a US port. It should be noted that, further cooperation from officials at
participating ports is required as it may be too late to respond to the terrorism threat
when the container reaches a US seaport.
Implementation of ATS has not been problem free either. Human element in
understanding and evaluating risk factors in transportation of various forms of cargo is
vital in raising the effectiveness and reliability of the targeting system. Expertise in
commercial shipping and supply-chain operations gives the ability to point to anomalies
in shipment routes to detect possible intrusion into containers or the loading of illegal
contraband during visits to ports en route. Without providing such training to customs
personnel and understating the human element in successfully targeting containers, risk
scores will have deficiencies. Another weakness of ATS is its reliance on cargo
manifests, and the route information provided by the shippers. There is virtually no way
to verify the accuracy of the route information, including the seaports visited between
the port of origin and the US port as well as the waterways the vessel navigated.
CSI is not the only program seeking to improve capabilities on non-US seaports in
detecting harmful cargo transported to the US. The Megaports Initiative, unveiled in
2003 by the US Department of Energy (DOE), is a program to improve radiological
material and nuclear weapon detection capabilities at non-US ports. It complements
CSI in that cargo is inspected for nuclear and radiological content at the port of origin.
The ultimate goal is to deter illicit nuclear and radiological material trafficking. DOE
officials negotiate with host governments and port officials and finalize an agreement to
install portal monitors at critical seaports. The agreement addresses critical issues like
equipment needs of the port, placement of equipment, and optimal calibration to detect
nuclear and radiological content. A challenge that the DOE faces is personnel training.
When the agreements are finalized, the host government takes control of all the
equipment, but receives support from the DOE for maintenance. As of December 2006,
the Megaports Initiative is operational in six countries.
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The sensitivity of the equipment provided to non-US seaports under the Megaports
Initiative is under the control of foreign port officials. Therefore, port officials may
choose to reduce the sensitivity of RPMs at their will if the number of false alarms
hampers the flow of trade. US officials have no control over the equipment after their
calibration and testing is completed. Another factor that could limit the effectiveness of
the equipment is the environmental conditions. RPMs tend to be less effective in cold
and windy climates. It is difficult to measure the effectiveness of radiological and
nuclear content detection equipment installed at foreign imports under the Megaports
Initiative. Other factors that limit the effectiveness of this initiative are its very limited
coverage and slow progress in installations due to operational difficulties .
188.8.131.52.4 Sea Transportation. In this phase, cargo travels between the port of origin and
the port of destination in the US. It is a critical phase as there is minimal law
enforcement in international waters and the vessel carrying cargo may visit other ports
before arriving at a US port. This leaves the vessel exposed to piracy and stowaway
threat. Lack of security guidelines to combat piracy makes the problem worse. Most
ships arriving at US seaports carry foreign flags and foreign crew. Therefore,
backgrounds of the crew are not verifiable, and there is no way to detect anybody who
committed crimes in foreign countries. As mentioned earlier, security breaches at
seaports visited en route is another loophole that could be exploited. In an effort to
reduce crime in open waters and seaports, international bodies promote the use of
technology that could track vessels, improve port perimeter security and help enforce
law. The US Coast Guard recognizes the severity of the problem and has taken some
steps to reduce terrorism risk in US waters. We will elaborate more on these efforts
later in this paper when general security in US and open waters is discussed.
184.108.40.206.5 Port of Destination. Containerized cargo arrives at a US port after sea transit.
Based on the risk score assigned by ATS, each container may be subject to inspection.
Of the nearly 10 million containers arriving at US ports each year, an average of 5% are
subject to inspections every day. The capability to detect harmful cargo largely depends
on the effectiveness of non-intrusive inspection (NII) technologies. Devices with NII
technology encompass X-ray and gamma imaging systems, portable and hand-held
radiation detectors, remote monitoring equipment, and portal sensors. The VACIS that
includes mobile VACIS, truck X-ray, mobile truck X-ray, rail VACIS is a system of
devices used to take radiographic snapshots of containers. CBP has deployed nuclear
and radiological equipment as well. Among these devices are Personal Radiation
Detectors (PRDs), Radiation Isotope Identifier Devices (RIIDs) and RPMs.
Current radiation portal monitor technology does not guarantee an acceptable detection
rate. Highly enriched uranium is not necessarily detected by the current technology if
the concealed under sufficiently thick shielding. A study by Wein et al.  concluded
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that with the current system of equipment, a shielded nuclear weapon can be detected
with a probability less than 0.1. In this sense, radiation portals offer limited detection
capability. Another concern about the technology is the high rate of false positives.
Items such as granite, porcelain toilets, and bananas can set off a radiation alert. High
number of false positives could disrupt the flow of trade at seaports.
DHS plans to deploy the next generation radiation portal monitors, Advanced
Spectroscopic Portals (ASP) by 2009 to improve detection capability at ports of entry.
Detection likelihood of unshielded or lightly shielded radiological and nuclear material
is expected to be higher with ASP. Besides, new portals offer reduction in false
positives. However, these portals have passive detection capability as the current
technology does and thus heavily shielded nuclear material is likely to evade detection
with ASP. Another drawback is the cost. GAO reports that expert estimate for the cost
of ASP ranges between six to eight times the cost of RPMs currently installed at US
seaports . Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) is currently developing the
next generation detection systems, Cargo Advanced Automated Radiography System
(CAARS) that will provide the capability to detect heavily shielded nuclear material.
However, this revolutionary system is yet in its initial stages of development.
There is no effective detection equipment for biological and chemical weapons. There
are many avenues to introduce contagious diseases and infectious bio-agents into the
US. Should the terrorists choose to bring harm to the nation via bioterrorism, containers
will probably be a less preferred medium of transport. However, containers could be
quite instrumental in some forms of chemical attacks. Tons of ammonium nitrate, an
explosive chemical substance used as fertilizers, is shipped in US waterways every year
as bulk cargo. Terrorists may choose to ship a container with ammonium nitrate and
detonate the load at a US port. Such an explosion can inflict high number of casualties.
Terrorists may also consider container explosions that could release poisonous nerve
agents around the port complex and disrupt the port operations. Development of
technology that could detect containers with undeclared hazardous cargo is vital to
reduce chemical threat at US ports.
Another piece of container security paradigm that has been largely overlooked in the
past is export cargo. With the implementation of CSI and the 24-hour rule, inbound
containers with manifest such as “freight of all kind” were no longer allowed at US
ports. However, containers with such descriptions are still allowed for export cargo.
This leaves the system vulnerable to an attack. A container explosion incident at the
Page 20 of 33
Port of Los Angeles in 2004 was a warning sign. 15
An outbound container which
carried hazardous material exploded when it was laid unattended for three days at the
port without any special precautions taken, because the cargo was supposedly “freight
of all kind”. Besides, security of outbound empty containers has loopholes. 40% of
containers present at a West Coast port on a given day are empty. 16
vulnerability with empty containers is the lack of any protocol or a requirement to lock
them in transit. Thus, it is relatively easy to place a bomb into these containers. Empty
containers may lie unattended at a port facility for days. Gaps in ensuring security of
export cargo and empty containers should be minimized to reduce terrorism at US
220.127.116.11 General Cargo. General cargo categories include liquid bulk (petroleum), dry
bulk (grain, paper), and iron ore or steel loads which are usually not shipped in
containers. General cargo ships were used historically to smuggle drugs and other
Cocaine smugglers are known to prefer shipping their cargo disguised in
iron ore or charcoal shipments because of the relatively low probability of detection.
However, general cargo shipments may not provide the same level of convenience in
weapons smuggling as containerized shipments. Weapons may be smuggled in general
cargo ships if the detection probability for weapons smuggling in containers is
relatively high and thus terrorists are deterred from using containers as a medium of
General cargo ships were reportedly used for terrorism and other suspicious activities in
the past. In 2002, Italian officials arrested 15 Pakistani men with false passports and
suspicious documents on a Tonga-registered vessel carrying a cargo of lead. 18
November, 2001, a Cambodia-registered vessel, supposedly carrying a cargo of timber,
was found smuggling cigarettes into Ireland to finance Real IRA operations . In
15 Congressional testimony on maritime security to Committee on House Transportation and Infrastructure by Michael Mitre. Michael Mitre is the port security director of International Longshore and
Warehouse Union (ILWU).
17 For instance, Coast Guard found 10,000 pounds of cocaine hidden below iron ore pellets in 1999.
For more info, please see: “Drug Ship Auction in Texas Draws Bidders Worldwide”, Knight Ridder Tribune,
26 May 1999.
18 They were suspected to have links with Al-Qaeda. Source: “Italy arrests 15 Pakistanis suspected of Al-Qaeda links, terror plans”, Agence France Presse English, 12 September 2002.
Page 21 of 33
2002, general cargo vessel, Karine A, loaded with 50 tons of weapons was captured by
Israeli officials. 19
While considerable attention has been warranted on container security, general cargo
has received little interest, at least in the media. All vessels that transport goods to the
US have to report their cargo information 24 hours before they leave the port of origin
and the arrival schedule 96 hours before they arrive at a US port. Those vessels whose
schedules of arrival have not changed more than 6 hours are not required to submit an
update. The arrival schedule is reported filling advanced notice of arrival (ANOA)
documents, which require information about the last 5 ports of entry. If a ship is bound
to visit multiple ports in the US, it has to file a new ANOA for every single port. The
goal is to determine the route of each vessel in order to assign a risk score. Vessels
larger than 300 gross tons file this document with the National Vessel Movement
For vessels that are less than 300 gross tons, an ANOA is not required. However, some
ports may choose to ask for ANOA information. 20
US-flag recreational vessels are
exempt from this requirement. Most commercial vessels that are less than 300 gross
tons are fishing boats. Inspection will be triggered if given the information from ANOA
or other intelligence information, a vessel is believed to engage in an illegal activity.
Without ANOA, the route information for general cargo ships won’t be known. This
creates another pathway to introduce a dirty bomb or illegal contraband into the US.
The risk is particularly high for ships carrying hazardous cargo. Terrorists may have
interest to explode ships carrying hazardous cargo to inflict more damage.
General cargo ships may also be used as weapons to attack coastal targets, or as
indicated above, to detonate a bomb. These scenarios are discussed in later sections on
security of coastal facilities.
3.1.2. Security of Port Area and Perimeters
Seaports are vulnerable to threats that could originate from port perimeters or inside a
port area. Critical infrastructure around seaports and the vast size of the perimeter area
19 Among the weapons were 122mm Katyusha rockets, 107mm rockets, 120mm mortars, Sager and LAW anti-tank rockets, mines, sniper rifles, Kalashnikov assault rifles, bullets, and explosives. See, “Israel Seizes Palestinian Gun-Running Ship”, United Press International, 4 January 2002.
20 For instance, Port of Los Angeles does not require this information, whereas US Coast Guard in
South Florida began to enforce the rule on May 21, 2004. The vessels have to file ANOA with the captain of the port. For details, please see Lucy Chabot Reed, “No ANOA Needed for Pleasure Vessels Coming to
South Florida.”, www.the-triton.com.http://www.the-triton.com/
Page 22 of 33
augment the fears that physical security gaps can be exploited. Realizing that a port
facility is only as secure as its perimeter, there is a need to develop systems that would
deter, detect, document, and deny any unauthorized entry into a port area and its
18.104.22.168 Access to Secure Areas. Human element is critical to ensure security at a port
area. The goal is to deny access to those who are not authorized and have criminal
backgrounds to secure areas around seaports. The USA Patriot Act of 2001 requires
background checks for all those individuals involved in transportation of hazardous
materials in commerce. Ports are among the intermodal sites where tons of hazardous
materials cross. This legislation was customized to the maritime environment by the
Maritime Transportation Security 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. Otherwise, those with criminal
records or those who have stolen identities can get an access to secure areas at seaports.
In the current system, verification of identity is achieved by checking photo ID, which
does not require any background check or check against national security databases.
Obtaining a driver’s license did not even require a legal status in the US until recently. 21
In the old system, consular cards issued by other countries such as Mexico would be
sufficient to issue a driver’s license. This opened the door to illegal aliens to get jobs in
port areas. TSA is planning to overcome this identity problem by designing a
Transportation Workers Identification Card (TWIC) that will be issued to all the 12
million transportation workers who need unescorted access to secure areas. These cards
will have embedded fingerprint information and be tamper-resistant.
Progress toward the use of TWIC has been rather slow. TSA awarded a $12 million
contract in August, 2004, and launched a prototype TWIC program at four sites in
November, 2004. When TSA initiated the TWIC program in 2002, the plan was to issue
the first cards in August, 2004 . However, serious delays in critical policy decisions
stood as stumbling blocks to progress. Delays were partly attributed to the late decision
on the type of technology to use and the late approval by DHS to conduct prototype test
and data challenges . In order to mitigate risks due to delays, TSA currently requires
transportation workers to carry different identification cards for each facility they
access. However, without full implementation of the TWIC program, access to secure
areas at seaports will remain to be a vulnerable point of the system.
21 President George Bush signed a legislation that standardizes the procedures across all the states.
The legislation became effective on May 11, 2005. Under the current legislation, the driver has to provide a birth certificate, proof of SSN, a photo ID and a document with their name and principal address. Kevin
Murphy, “New Rules Will Make Your Driver’s License Harder to Get”, The Kansas City Star, 20 May 2005.
Page 23 of 33
Each year, approximately 7,500 foreign flagged ships carry the bulk of shipments into
the US, including 175 billion gallons of oil and other fuels. 93% of US trade sails over
non US-owned or non US-flag ships with foreign crew. Before 9/11, foreign crew could
obtain visa without visiting the embassy or consular office in person as the shipment
companies could obtain visas for all crew members by submitting a list of the crew to a
US embassy. This vulnerability was addressed by requiring all foreign members to
acquire their own visas. However, the threat posed by stowaways remains unless port
surveillance capabilities are improved and access to secure areas is granted with state of
the art identification cards. Terrorists may use this route to either sneak through US
borders, or launch an attack in the port area. They may seek cooperation with the
foreign crew with sympathy towards their agenda to board the ship and penetrate
through the port facility when the ship arrives at a port. At the federal level, there does
not seem to be any effort to incentivize US shippers to enlarge their commercial fleet or
to encourage US vessel owners, who operate their ships under foreign flags, to switch
to the American flag system.
Port officials have taken steps to install new technology to improve surveillance
capabilities in the port area. So far, some ports have installed integrated security
management systems that have video surveillance, automated access control, and
perimeter intrusion detection capabilities. 22
These are positive steps to minimize the
risk of unauthorized access to secure areas in a US seaport. Nevertheless, these
technologies also have limitations. As in the case of RPM, most sensor technology
comes with the dilemma of sensitivity adjustment versus false alarm rate. For example,
motion sensors can be adjusted to track a flying bird, wall vibration sensors may react
to any vibrating object, or machinery and ultrasonic sensors may detect any noise in the
ultrasonic range. In order to reduce the time to identify false alarms, cameras may be
installed around sensors. However, lights may change the thermal environment and
affect the operation of sensors. In sum, a layered monitoring approach will reduce the
likelihood of success for an intrusion attempt.
22.214.171.124 Port Perimeters. Port police and the US Coast Guard are responsible for
policing waterways inside and around every port. Many naval vessels, commercial
vessels with hazardous material, nuclear power plants, densely populated areas, and
critical infrastructure such as bridges are located on or near the open waterways. A
discussion on security around coastal targets is provided later in this paper.
22 An example to that is Port of Oakland. “Port of Oakland Selects ADT to Design and Install a $4.75 Million Maritime Security System”, PR Newswire, 07 May 2003. Port of Galveston, Toledo, and Los
Angeles/Long Beach are also among those that installed similar systems.
Page 24 of 33
3.1.3. Cruise Lines
Terrorists hijacked passenger vessels in the past to accomplish political goals. Like
airplane hijacking incidents, they attracted a lot of attention, which helped spread the
political message of terrorist groups. Cruise ships are enticing targets for terrorists, for
multiple reasons. First, terrorists can hijack cruise liners for piracy and looting
purposes, because there is a widespread belief that cruise ship passengers are wealthy.
Second, some cruise ships have around a 5,000 passenger capacity, exposing them to a
single terrorist attack with the potential to claim thousands of lives. Such an attack
would have ripple effects on tourism, aviation, and the entertainment industry. In this
regard, a well organized attack on a cruise liner will fulfill both objectives of terrorists:
economic damage and a high number of casualties. If terrorists aim at killing the
maximum number of people, cruise ships may suffer either seaborne or aerial attacks. It
is less likely that cruise ships will be used as weapons themselves. A hijacking incident
won’t remain a secret for long, and port officials will have enough time to secure the
critical targets on the coast.
After the 1985 hijacking of Italian cruise liner, Achille Lauro, the cruise industry
implemented a wide array of new anti-terrorism measures. Since 1985, there has been
only one cruise ship hijacking incident. In the current era, hijacking of cruise ships in
the US seems less likely, as the cruise liners have adhered to even more strict security
measures since 9/11. Specific measures that are enforced by the US Coast Guard
o Screening of all passenger baggage, carry-on luggage, and ship cargo. Metal
detectors, X-ray machines, human searches, and canine teams are used to do
o Screening of passenger lists against criminal and terrorist watch lists.
o Restricting access to secure areas in the port and on the vessel.
o Maintaining a 100-yard security zone around cruise ships.
o Underwater surveillance at high risk ports.
There is no doubt that these security measures have been effective in reducing terrorism
risk on cruise liners. The degree of vulnerability to a terrorist attack is more a function
of technology failure risk which is and will be present in most security systems. Cruise
lines are a relatively more secure component of the entire US border security system.
3.2 SECURITY OF US WATERS AND COAST
Most US energy power plants, critical bridges, and densely populated urban areas lay
close to waterways. For instance, 75% of oil refineries, a great majority of 103 nuclear
reactors, and all LNG terminals in the US are located onshore. Nearly all major cities
Page 25 of 33
are accessible by waterways. Operation of the infrastructure onshore is crucial for the
US economy. A single attack on any of this infrastructure is likely to inflict a
significant number of casualties and bring serious economic damage. Furthermore, they
may be easier to penetrate from the shore, making them attractive targets for terrorists.
The US Coast Guard has a central role in confronting such seaborne threats.
3.2.1. Discussion of the Coast Guard Capabilities
The Coast Guard currently assumes homeland and non-homeland security
responsibilities, such as enforcing security laws around ports, waterways, and
coastlines, interdicting drug and human smugglers, monitoring fishing areas,
responding to pollution, and conducting search and rescue operations. All these
missions are accomplished with a fleet consisting aircraft, cutters, patrol boats, and
special purpose vessels, such as icebreakers. Before 9/11, most Coast Guard operational
hours were dedicated to search and rescue missions, along with three categories of law
enforcement: protecting fisheries, interdicting illegal migrants at sea, and controlling
the flow of drugs. As 9/11 shifted focus on preventing terrorism, Coast Guard resources
were largely allocated on homeland security related activities, while some of the
traditional missions, such as search and rescue, underwent a significant reduction in
operational hours. 23
The Coast Guard was appropriated $1.5 billion between 2002 and 2004 for equipment
replacement and modernization under the Deepwater Acquisition Program (DAP),
which was initiated in 1996. The program seeks to modernize ships and aircraft used in
missions that cannot be carried out by shore-based small boats. The equipment
replacement and modernization phase, under the DAP, began in 2002 as the contract for
acquisition and integration of necessary equipment was awarded to Integrated Coast
Guard Systems. Funds appropriated for DAP are used to upgrade legacy assets, acquire
new vessels and maintain existing equipment . Another modernization program in
progress is Rescue 21, which will replace the equipment used for coastal
communication needed for search and rescue operations. Total Coast Guard funds
requested for fiscal year 2006 amount to $8.1 billion, which constitute 20% of the DHS
According to GAO, the Coast Guard faces challenges in implementing both DAP and
Rescue 21. GAO believes that DAP has not enjoyed a predictable and steady funding
stream which is key to acquisition and integration of new equipment to the system.
23 According to a GAO report in 2004, this reduction amounted to 22%. Other non-homeland security missions with similar reduction in operational hours are law enforcement activities protecting living
marine resources and foreign fish enforcement.
Page 26 of 33
Furthermore, they report that the acquisition program is behind schedule, and pouring
more money into the program will not help get inline with the original schedule .
Due to these delays, GAO estimates that the cost projection of the program that was
originally expected to be $15 billion at the end of 20 years has first risen to $17.2
billion and then recently up to $24 billion. The approach adopted by the Coast Guard in
managing this huge acquisition project to hire a single systems integrator led to
concerns about potential lack of competition in later phases of asset procurement that
may eventually lead an uncontrolled stream of acquisition costs. This prediction was
realized in earlier years of the project, as the estimated cost of the project increased up
to 60%. Another reason behind these escalating costs lies in deepwater aircraft and
cutters “failing at an unsustainable rate,”  which compelled the Coast Guard to
revise its implementation plan for this acquisition project.
Similar problems have arisen in the Rescue 21 program that hampered search and
rescue operations across US waters. These problems raise concerns about the capability
of the Coast Guard to achieve some of its missions. GAO has also reported that most
missions may also suffer from lack of station readiness due to staffing and training
problems which lead to prolonged periods of work and shortage of experienced
personnel . While the Coast Guard responded to these problems by increasing its
operational efficiency through improved technology, port security assessments, stronger
partnerships, and better information sharing, most of these improvements have
remained rather local and should be spread all over the maritime security spectrum.
The Coast Guard is currently developing the operational requirements for an Automatic
Identification System (AIS). The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) package
of security measures which extended Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) in 2002 included
installation of AIS technology as a ship related provision. These security measures that
are known as International Ship and Port Facility Security Codes (ISPS) required AIS
to improve monitoring of vessel movement. AIS is a technology that enables tracking
of vessels by coastal stations and other Coast Guard vessels using a portion of the radio
frequency spectrum for communication. Information such as size of the ship, its course
and speed, registration number, and other identifying characteristics of the vessel can be
transmitted to the central Coast Guard location using AIS. This technology is required
on all vessels over 300 gross tons. These larger vessels are currently documented by the
Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is still developing operational requirements of AIS
technology and evaluating these requirements with all the stakeholders involved. AIS is
crucial to identify all high tonnage vessels in US waterways and accordingly will help
the Coast Guard extend waterway coverage. According to the Coast Guard, an
approved AIS equipment price ranges between $3,000 and $9,000 excluding the
installation costs. These price figures for the equipment makes expansion of AIS a
requirement to vessels below 300 tons costly prohibitive, as many vessels below 300
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tons are not commercial. AIS will be implemented in 10 critical maritime areas, which
is only a fraction of over 12,000 miles of coastline and 25,000 miles of river and inland
These areas are currently monitored by radar based Vehicle Traffic Service
Smaller vessels which will not be required to install AIS technology are registered by
the individual states. Integration of this data into the Coast Guard’s database of vessel
registry is crucial to increase the awareness of all the vessels in the maritime domain.
The Coast Guard faced problems in the past to integrate state vessel registry data .
As of now, there is no legal requirement for individual states to share their vessel
registry data with the Coast Guard. These legal boundaries may reduce the capability of
the Coast Guard to monitor small vessels that may be involved in illicit arms and
3.2.2. Vulnerabilities along US Waterways and Countermeasures for Risk Mitigation
We discuss vulnerabilities along US waterways under three titles: critical coastal
targets, pleasure & fisher boats security, and waterways & underwater security.
126.96.36.199 Critical Coastal Targets. Maritime terrorism has hit US and non-US coastal
infrastructure in the past. Terrorists have a plethora of potential targets for launching
deadly attacks on the US coast. History of maritime terrorism suggests that terrorists
have already exercised a variety of options to execute such attacks. In recent years,
many terrorist organizations have added various means of suicide attacks in their
portfolios. This poses further challenges to those who seek to deter terrorists from
attacking one of the most vulnerable points of the nation. LNG facilities, chemical
plants, urban centers, bridges and nuclear plants are among those critical targets that are
exposed to waterborne terrorism threat.
There are various ways to attack critical coastal targets. Terrorists may acquire new
vessels through piracy or smuggle humans on vessels that are destined to sail near the
target of interest. Piracy is a rising threat across the globe, and terrorists are already
known to use piracy for financing purposes. Having acquired a ship to execute an
attack, terrorists may detonate explosives on the ship at a time or location of their
choice, or ram the ship into the target. It may be difficult to execute an attack hijacking
an LNG ship due to security guidelines followed by the Coast Guard, but vessels with
24 These areas cover 10% of the US ports recognized by the Department of Transportation. Some of
the major US ports are not involved in these 10 maritime areas. See GAO Report, GAO-04-868, “Maritime Security: Partnering Could Reduce Federal Costs and Facilitate Implementation of Automatic Vessel
Identification System”, July 2004.
Page 28 of 33
other forms of hazardous cargo may be vulnerable to hijacking. In particular, ships
carrying bulk shipments of ammonium nitrate are potentially vulnerable. A huge
volume of ammonium nitrate flows through US inland waterways each year. For
example, in 1997 over 400,000 tons of ammonium nitrate was shipped through the
Mississippi river. These shipments pass near urban centers such as New Orleans, St.
Louis, Memphis, and Pittsburgh. In order to monitor and reduce vulnerability against
ammonium nitrate and other hazardous cargo shipments (commonly called certain
dangers cargo or CDC), the Coast Guard acted to introduce new regulations in 2004.
These regulations include mandatory development of security plans at vessels and
facilities handling ammonium nitrate, preparation of vessel maintenance and security
records, training of a facility and vessel security officer, and installation of vessel and
facility security systems. These new regulations increased the transportation cost of
Inland waterways are vulnerable to attacks that could cripple freight routes and
devastate waterfront cities, power plants, chemical facilities, and other critical and
commercial targets. Some of the measures to address the terrorism threat in inland
waterways include routine anti-terrorism patrols, establishment of maritime security
zones covered by the AIS technology, increased inspections on domestic tankers, and
technology based surveillance around inland ports and critical facilities. The Coast
Guard partnered with the private sector to analyze the consequences of explosions on
inland barges carrying CDC. Since 9/11, inland ports have been closed to non-US flag
vessels. The threat posed by barges and small watercraft is still present despite all the
security improvements made so far. Large segments of inland waterways still do not
have any AIS coverage which increases the difficulty of surveillance . There is an
urgency to expand AIS coverage as soon as possible along inland waterways to reduce
waterborne threat in America’s heartland.
The risk of suicidal attacks on coastal targets from sea shores can be mitigated by
blocking access from the sea. Waterborne security barriers such as chains will prevent
terrorists from either ramming into the facility or exploding bombs in the vicinity.
However, remote sensor technology at maritime ports, power plants, or other coastal
targets is needed to detect these attacks in advance. In particular, sensors that can detect
nuclear content from a distance could be a very valuable addition to the anti-terror
188.8.131.52 Pleasure and Fisher Boats. As mentioned earlier, tracking of general cargo
vessels less than 300 gross tons is relatively poor as these vessels provide no
information about their route. Since most fisher boats are under the 300 gross tons
requirement, there is no way of gathering intelligence about routes fisher boats take in
fisheries. Another point of concern is that fisher boats permitted to enter the port area,
Page 29 of 33
which could let them launch an attack on critical targets in and around a seaport.
Likewise, other open targets on the coast are vulnerable. A similar threat is posed by
pleasure boats. Without further intelligence that triggers boarding of a specific boat,
there is little chance of intercepting terrorists.
Drug smugglers have been known to introduce illegal drugs on fisher boats for a long
time. As the threat of terrorism intensifies, fisher boats may be a new means to
introduce explosives or weapons in the American homeland. Most marinas in the US
have minimal protection from terrorists. Thus, as long as a fisher boat escapes the Coast
Guard’s notice, success is very likely. According to GAO, resource hours allocated to
drug interdiction has been reduced 44% . Drug interdiction performance did not
reflect this reduction on hours devoted to the mission. The Coast Guard attributes this
to improved efficiency in operations due to new technology. Recent evidence of
increased criminal activity involving drug cartels beyond the southwestern land borders
may suggest that this could be attributed to increased drug traffic. In one senate hearing,
Michael O’Hanlon of Brookings Institution said: 25
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, more than half of the Coast Guard was
devoted to port and waterway security against possible terrorist attacks.
Even today, at least a quarter of Coast Guard assets are devoted to such
missions. Other activities ranging from environmental protection to
patrolling of US economic maritime zones to counterdrug missions have
Reduction of hours devoted to drug interdiction may have negative impacts on weapons
interdiction. An increased rate of random boat inspections may be an effective
deterrence-based solution to the problem. Expansion of initiatives and technology
investments increasing maritime domain awareness to include intelligence gathering on
fisher and pleasure boats would be another effective risk mitigation effort.
184.108.40.206 Waterways and Underwater Security. Most of the discussion which is relevant
to waterways security is already provided in previous sections, as there is a significant
overlap between waterways security and security of coastal targets. What distinguishes
waterways security from the earlier discussion is the threat on commercial traffic
flowing in US waterways. Coordinated suicide and mine attacks on ships carrying
hazardous or other commercial cargo are the most prominent scenarios that target
economic prosperity by disrupting trade. Increased maritime domain awareness that
could help the Coast Guard observe, report, and respond to suspect activities of vessels
25 Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Hearing, 20 March 2003.
Page 30 of 33
will mitigate both risks. Vessels should develop anti-piracy measures to detect any
suspicious activity around and report valuable information that could help early
Terrorists may choose to disrupt the trade by laying mines in a port, or around critical
waterways. If mines hit a ship with hazardous cargo, then the damage can be
compounded. Mines may be laid by vessels or frogmen. This threat raises questions
about underwater security, which has been overlooked in the past. A countermeasure to
this threat would be to equip the Coast Guard vessels with mine sensors. No extra
resource hours would be allocated for this mine search mission as regular patrolling
activities would accomplish the task. The Coast Guard is aware of the problem and
unveiled an integrated anti-swimmer (IAS) system to address this threat . The
system integrates technology with human monitoring. Underwater and sonar cameras
are used for continuous monitoring, whereas swimmers and divers can be used to
thwart underwater bombers. Underwater weapons called “non-lethal interdiction
acoustic impulse” devices were still in testing phase earlier in 2005 . The Coast
Guard plans to use these weapons after a verbal warning using underwater speaker
systems. These countermeasures are to deter frogmen from laying mines around ports,
rather than mine detection and sweeping.
The US Navy has resources for mine sweeping and detection activities, but some of
these resources are currently deployed for overseas operations, and all of the resources
(Coastal Mine Hunters and Mine Countermeasures Ships) available domestically are
based in Texas. This increases vulnerability to a mine attack at certain locations in the
US waterways, as it may be difficult to deploy minesweepers on time. In particular, any
West Coast port is particularly vulnerable as it may take a month for a minesweeper to
cross the Panama Canal and arrive at the port under attack. It is mandatory to have
highly trained divers at, or sufficiently close to, critical locations who can clear mines
upon an attack.
Terrorism is a multi-dimensional risk that will probably never be eliminated with
limited resources as long as there are those willing to deliver harm. Therefore, the goal
is to achieve maximum possible risk reduction by spending dollars to minimize
weaknesses in security at certain points of vulnerability. DHS has adopted a risk-based
fund allocation principle to address the problem, but more than five years after the 9/11
attacks, US borders remain vulnerable to terrorism threat. Maritime borders are
particularly vulnerable due to the sheer size of waterways that need to be protected and
plethora of targets that terrorists can attack. DHS employs a layered approach to seal
maritime borders against terrorist plots and has introduced several initiatives to this
Page 31 of 33
end. While these initiatives and other DHS efforts have helped defend the American
homeland against this persisting threat, they still leave gaps in maritime security which
could be exploited by an adaptive adversary.
This paper is an attempt to summarize the status of homeland security in the maritime
domain. More dollars will be spent and more resources will be mobilized in the future
for better defense. Expected benefits of every dollar spent to mitigate terrorism risk
should be measured after a comprehensive analysis on the status of security in the
maritime domain. Different elements of maritime security have complex
interdependencies that determine the marginal value of new countermeasures and
initiatives. For example, new technology to improve container security may yield
limited benefits if other avenues to deliver a dirty bomb are left open. Therefore, a
systems-based risk analysis should be used to evaluate the benefits of new technologies,
policies and initiatives.
Intelligence is key to deploying resources to the right locations. Intelligence will help
make correct predictions about the possible terrorist behavior, hence develop strategies
to protect maritime borders. It will also help gauge the degree of terrorist sophistication
and elicit relative probability of various types of attacks. Terrorists may not have the
immediate capability to launch all different types of attacks, so intelligence will help
characterize threats and also monitor terrorists’ agendas. Besides, early interdiction
rests on intelligence and a multi-layered defense that engages all stakeholders in
maritime domain in security. Early interdiction is a powerful way to minimize
economic damage, and in most cases eliminate human losses. It may be too late to
respond if a dirty bomb or a weapon of mass destruction arrives at a US seaport.
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Needs to be Assessed, 24 May 2002.
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Page 33 of 33
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- CREATE Research Archive
- A Brief Analysis of Threats and Vulnerabilities in the Maritime Domain
- Niyazi Onur Bakir
- Recommended Citation
- Niyazi Onur Bakir