The US marine transport system contributes over 700 billion dollars in revenue and controls more than 90 percent of the global trade. It also allows the US to extend its military presence across the world. In addition, it generates employment opportunities for the locals and provides recreational facilities for the American people.
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In other words, the US maritime transport system is closely linked to the country’s economy and military prowess. As a result, numerous efforts and measures have been taken to secure the maritime transport system1.
Enhancing security of the maritime transport system at the same time upholding its functionality is a very difficult task. This is because the US maritime transport system is naturally diverse and comprise of numerous facilities, processes and infrastructure that are managed and controlled by many stakeholders.
Each and every stakeholder plays a significant role. In addition, the US maritime system is an open system, which makes it possible for the users to utilize and gain from it at least cost. Even though the openness makes it more efficient, it also presents numerous hurdles to those attempting to enhance its security2.
The 9/11 attack prompted the maritime sector to re-examine its weaknesses against any possible act of terror and disruption. The degree of fatality and devastation prompted the industry players and the state to look for new strategies of moderating the inherent risks in the whole maritime transport system.
For that reason, much effort and resources have been spent to enhance the safety of the US ports since 9/11. This has been accompanied by numerous security initiatives aimed at creating a secure environment in the North American waters3. A review of these initiatives and their implications for the US maritime transport system forms the main basis of this paper.
The US Maritime Security Situation in pre- and post 9/11
The outcome of September 11 spontaneously changed the meaning of the term “security” to a more composite definition. The attack led to a global concern over the probable repeat of such attacks using other modes of transport4.
The deadly bombing of the commuter trains in Madrid and London accentuates the devious intents of the terror networks to strike transport systems, mainly used by large number of civilians. If the commuter train could be bombed and commercial airlines rammed into the twin towers, the probability of the maritime infrastructure being the next target is very high5.
The US maritime sector is of great concern because any attack on its infrastructure would lead to massive loss of life and property, which would ultimately upset the international trade and the global economy. Any form of terrorist attack on a cargo port would be very costly to the local and national economy at large.
This could lead to closure of the port, which eventually could result in massive loss of jobs and destruction of goods and port infrastructure6. As a result, the US government has heavily invested in port security. Ports are currently considered as a plausible target for terrorist attacks. Therefore, 9/11 has fundamentally transformed the whole landscape of the maritime industry7.
In 2003, journalists from the ABC news channel in the US successfully smuggled depleted uranium into the US through the Los Angeles port using a container box. Even though the substance is legal in the US, the staged incident exposed the security lapses in the US ports. This is because the container remained intact and unopened after going through the screening process8.
While the authorities might have trivialized the incident, it exposed massive weaknesses in port security, which could have had unthinkable ramifications. In fact, a number of nuclear scientists condemned the security breach. If the port security couldn’t detect depleted uranium, then there was a possibility that they could have allowed enriched uranium in the US soil9.
As a result, the US maritime industry has been put through numerous security programmes aimed at preventing any security breach like the one staged by the ABC News Journalists. The post- 9/11 security strategies have expanded the realm of the term “maritime security” beyond the traditional frontiers. Traditionally, maritime security was mainly concerned with piracy, collision of vessels, stowaways and accidents in the port. The safety of ports and maritime vessels has come into sharp focus since 9/11 owing to the threats of terrorism10.
Prior to 9/11, the probability of a terrorist attack on a cargo vessel was not ranked higher. The main targets were cruise ships or passenger ships, for example, the attack on the City of Poros in the late 80s.
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However, the attack on a cargo ship in the Yemen’s coast in 2002 emphasized the susceptibility of cargo vessels to acts of terror. The attack confirmed the public concern that maritime interests could also be a target. The attack on the Israeli port of Ashdod, which claimed over ten lives acted as a warning that even ports were not safe from terrorists11.
The Major Maritime Security Initiatives after the 9/11 Attack
There are numerous initiatives introduced after the attack on the twin towers. The main initiatives include the introduction of the International Maritime Security Code, Custom Trade Collaboration against Terror, and Container Safety Initiative12.
International Maritime Security Code
Following the 9/11 attack, the global maritime organization came up with a complete set of rules outlining security standards for port facilities and international maritime vessels. The main objective of the International Maritime Security Code was to reinforce maritime security and to avert potential terror attack. Given the significant role the maritime sector plays in the international trade, successful execution of these sets of rules will not only improve the maritime industry, but also play a big part in the global economy13.
Basically, the International Maritime Security Code promulgates the ideology of viewing the safety of port facilities and international maritime vessels as a risk management operation. According to International Maritime Security Code, risk assessment on port facilities and maritime vessels must be carried out regularly to establish suitable measures. The International Maritime security code offers a standardized and reliable structure for assessing risks, making it possible for countries to counter changes in threats.
The code requires non landlocked countries to put in place security strategies, security personnel and essential defence equipments. The equipments include security-related communication systems. The code also requires port personnel to keep an eye on all the activities taking place in the port and control access to port facilities14.
Even though the implementation of the code experienced some teething problem at the initial stage, it was realized without too many obstacles. This highlights the flexible and vibrant nature of the maritime industry, and also acknowledges the pressing need to thwart the apparent security threats facing the maritime industry.
The code has helped to enhance the level of vigilance and promptness of port operators and the maritime industry as a whole. In addition, the code has transformed the port security from a reactive orientation to a proactive orientation15.
To comply with the standard set by the International Maritime Security Code, port officials must carry out a thorough evaluation of their security facilities as required by the International Maritime Organization. The assessment involves in-house audit of port areas, drilling and exercising, and auditing of the security meeting areas.
With all the requirements in place, the general security alertness among the port operators has significantly improved since 9/11. Thanks to the International Maritime Security Code, many port operators have currently embraced a culture of security awareness16.
Customs Trade Collaboration against Terror
Customs Trade Collaboration against Terror is an idea initiated by the US customs department in conjunction with the maritime stakeholders to enhance port security. It has rules that are aimed at improving the maritime supply chain and performance while alleviating the risks associated with terrorism. Customs Trade Collaboration against Terror ties all the US importers and their suppliers all over the world and is intended to cover the entire supply chain of the US importers.
In other words, all the stakeholders have a part to play in the war against terrorism. By taking part in the war against terrorism, business owners have an opportunity to enhance the security of their supply chain. The parties to this agreement benefit from having the processing of their consignments accelerated. However, non members have to follow the normal cargo handling procedure, which is lengthy and takes a considerably long time17.
Container Safety Initiative
The horror and fear created by 9/11 experience forced the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to implement the Container Safety Initiative. This was aimed at safeguarding consignments transported in containers from the risk of terrorism. The initiative was based on the principle of extending the security buffer zone. The US boundaries were to be the last line of defence.
The principle objective of Container Safety Initiative is safeguarding what is deemed to be the most susceptible linkage to the international supply chain, that is, the shipping containers. Container Safety Initiative involves thorough screening of container that are considered to be of high risks by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the point of origin before being shipped to the US18.
Based on the Container Safety Initiative, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials normally follow four fundamental procedures. First, they use intelligence and state of the art information technology systems to identify high-risk containers. Second, the high risk containers are screened at the port of origin before leaving for US. Third, the containers are again screened at the US port. Last but not least, the containers used must be well-dressed and tamper proof19.
Most of the international cargos pass through the largest ports. The busiest ports are found in Asia and Europe. These ports are very important in promoting international trade. The Container Safety Initiative is intended to identify illegal goods that pass through the busy ports and choke points of the global maritime shipment.
Furthermore, the International Maritime Organization initiated another security strategy known as the Global Customs Association. This association provides an extra muscle to the Container Safety Initiative. The Global Customs Association aims to further strengthen the overall security of the global supply chain, which is mostly linked to the maritime sector20.
After the 9/11, the U.S. single-handedly initiated numerous anti-terrorism measures that have been far and wide, but on some occasions half-heartedly, embraced by the global community. Therefore, the American bureaus have been on the forefront in the war against terrorism in the maritime sector.
For instance, the U.S. National Cargo Security Council, an organization that was founded by the US department of transport, transformed into a global organization. It is currently known as the International Cargo Security Council. It is planning to establish a global network to fight cargo crimes and acts of terror21.
In 2003, President Bush came up with the Proliferation Security Initiative, which is a global body mandated with the responsibility of screening suspicious maritime vessels and confiscates illegal weapons. In 2004, the U.S. Coast Guard also introduced the Global Port Security Initiative, which engages other global associates in assessing and aligning port security with the International Maritime Security Code and other global standards22.
Costs and Implication of these Initiatives
Even though critics argue that these initiatives were single-handedly and hurriedly endorsed, they have considerably helped in pushing the plan of safeguarding port facilities and maritime vessels. Earlier reservations and resistance by some stakeholders in the maritime sector subsided after acknowledging the significance of such initiatives. These initiatives have involuntarily brought together the extremely peevish maritime stakeholders. Currently, they have a common stand on maritime security measures, something that has never been witnessed before23.
The maritime authorities that are parties to these initiatives have established major programmes to deal with the current security challenges. In addition, they have put more emphasis on security issues that were previously overlooked. Even though a number of these authorities have expressed their dissatisfaction on high costs involved in meeting the current security standards, the benefits of these measures outweigh the cost. Moreover, ports that have met the set standards have their security profile raised.
Outstanding security parameters attract large number of ships, hence increase business opportunities. Generally, ports that are well-known for providing excellent security features, for instance, Rotterdam Port are the busiest in the world. Therefore, high level security gives ports a competitive advantage in the maritime industry. In a nutshell, even though excellent security features come at a cost, they attract good business24.
Without a doubt, the post- 9/11 security initiatives have created a safe environment in the maritime industry. However, the cost ramifications of these measures have been a thorn to port officials and others users.
Even though most of them welcome the move to tighten up security at the ports, the huge task and investment required to do so have created friction among stakeholders in the maritime sector. To recoup the huge amount of resources spent in upgrading the security apparatus, a number of ports are imposing high security levies on the users.
Unsurprisingly, port officials and the users often conflict on this controversial subject. The port officials believe the levies are sensible owing to the hi-tech security facilities being provided. However, the users believe security should be one of the fundamental services offered by the maritime authorities. For instance, the users of the Hong Kong port were very infuriated by the move by port management to introduce box to box levy.
They felt it was unfair for the management to pass the cost of security to the consumers who were already overburdened with other costs incurred due to delays in the processing of cargo. Similar grievances have been witnessed in Australia. The port users in Australia argue that the security levies charged by port officials lack transparency25. This highlights a series of reactions surrounding the execution of post 9/11 security initiatives.
A further possible undesirable ramification of the post 9/11 security initiatives is port congestion. According to the International Maritime Security Code, ports are required to put in place additional security checks. These security checks are causing delays in container screening and, therefore, interrupting the entire supply chain. The supply chain in the maritime industry is connected in such a way that, any hold-up at ports, will have a negative impact on the entire network.
Holdups at ports would mean less business. This affects the general competitive advantage of ports. In addition, port congestion also affects port stakeholders and users along the supply chain, for example, freight forwarders and shipping companies. Given the nature of the maritime supply chain, port congestion can lead to overcrowding in other ports as a result of prolonged clearance of cargo and maritime vessels.
Prolonged clearance of maritime vessels and processing of cargo could lead to artificial shortage of goods. Eventually, the shortage of goods could force the prices up and make life difficult for the consumers.
On a more extreme level, the interruption of the maritime supply chain could negatively affect the competitive advantage of countries that depends on global trade. Therefore, given the negative implications of the post 9/11measures, the terminal officials are faced with a huge challenge of balancing security requirements and port competitiveness.
Evaluating the efficiency of the above measures/initiatives
The seaport is one of the principle constituent of the maritime supply chain. The maritime supply chain involves countless stakeholders, components and operations whose success depends on each other. For this reason, security at seaports should not only be considered as an internal matter, but also something that calls for a multifaceted approach. The security strategy used should take into consideration the status, grievances and weaknesses of every stakeholder in the supply chain.
The dilemma of keeping a balance between port security and competitiveness calls for a total transfer of the security matters to the larger supply chain. This is very important because of the interconnectedness of maritime logistics and supply chain. In addition, the modern supply chain management emphasizes on quick and efficient delivery of goods in the global market. This is evident in the production concepts that call for delivery of goods in the shortest time possible, for instance, Just-in-Time.
Outside the seaports, other stakeholders in the maritime supply chain should play their part in ensuring the smooth and steady flow of goods. Each and every player in the supply chain should be held accountable for security of goods that pass through their hands.
This will not only enhance port security, but also the security of goods as they move along the supply chain. This will help to minimize tension and friction among the players in the maritime supply chain. Generally, the friction emanates when security agenda of certain stakeholders is given more attention than others.
The efficiency and success of the post- 9/11 measures are still a subject of debate. According to the report by the Government Accountability Office, there are several weaknesses in a number of post 9/11 initiatives, particularly in the Customs Trade Collaboration against Terror and Container Safety Initiative.
While appreciating the role played by the two initiatives in combating insecurity in the maritime sector, the Government Accountability Office stressed that the cargo screening process by the Customs and Border Protection was not comprehensive26.
The revelations were backed by damnifying statistical evidence, for example, it found out that nearly 30 percent of the imports were not screened in the host country. Furthermore, nearly 40 percent of the goods were not screened at all. The findings forced the Government Accountability Office to indict the Customs and Border Protection agency’s strategies, especially with regard to risk assessment.
The findings of the Government Accountability Office uncovered the unavoidable friction caused by disproportionate aggregation of maritime security roles. This shows that the task of maintaining high security standards as demanded by the International Maritime Security Code is too much for the government and port authorities. The task has even become more strenuous on account of the post 9/11 security threat perception27.
The post 9/11 initiatives are considered to be over ambitious projects that require a considerable amount of resources. However, given the budgetary constraints, most governments have been struggling to implement them. The heated discussions over the security levies and port congestions show that things are not well, and that the burden of providing and maintaining maritime security should not be left to the government alone.
Additionally, the burden should be shared equitably among the beneficiaries of the secure port environment. In other words, maritime security initiatives should involve burden-sharing among the stakeholders in the maritime supply chain, rather than passing the entire burden to the government or port authorities.
The US maritime sector is of great concern because any attack on its infrastructure would lead to massive loss of life and property, which would ultimately upset the international trade and the global economy. Any form of terrorist attack on a cargo port would be very costly to the local and national economy.
This could lead to closure of the port, which eventually could result in massive loss of jobs and destruction of goods and port infrastructure. As a result, there are numerous maritime security initiatives that have been put in place to combat new threats. These initiatives include the International Maritime Security Code, Custom Trade Collaboration against Terror, and Container Safety Initiative.
Even though there are numerous security initiatives since 9/11 attack, these measures are facing numerous challenges ranging from excess security levies to port congestion. These initiatives are considered to be over ambitious projects that require a considerable amount of resources. However, given the budgetary constraints, most governments have been struggling to implement them.
For this reason, the burden of providing and maintaining maritime security should not be left to the government alone, and should be shared equitably among the beneficiaries of the secure port environment. Nonetheless, no one can ignore the role that has been played by the new security programmes in combating new threats. These initiatives not only emphasize on security of ports and maritime vessels, but also the security of cargo.
Andreas, Peter. Border Game: Policing the U.S.-Mexico Divide, 2nd ed. Cornel University Press, 2001.
Banomyong, Ruth. “The impact of port and trade security initiatives on maritime supply-chain management”, Maritime Policy Management 32, no.1 (2005):3-13.
Bichou, Khalid. “The ISPS Code and the cost of port compliance: An initial logistics and supply chain framework for port security assessment and management”, Maritime Economics and Logistics 6, no.4 (2004):322-348.
Center for Transportation Logistics. Supply chain response to terrorism – Planning for the unexpected. Cambridge: MIT, 2002.
Hastings, Paul, “Fresh security initiatives to thwart terrorists”, Cargo News Asia 29, no.7 (2005):12.
ISPS Code. International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. 2014. Web.
Khalid, Nazir. Maritime Security Initiative Post -9/11: Implications for the Port Sector. Kuala Lumpur: Maritime Institute of Malaysia, 2007.
Maritime Security Policy. Maritime Transportation System Security Recommendations for the National Strategy for Maritime Security. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2005.
Ross, Brian and Rhonda Shwartz. “Customs Fails to Detect Depleted Uranium”. ABC News. 2012. Web.
US Container Security Initiatives. Container security: Major initiatives and related international developments. Geneva: UNCTAD, 2004.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 2014. Web.
1 The Marine Transportation System (MTS) generates nearly $700 billion of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product and handles 95% of all overseas trade.1 The MTS makes it possible for goods from other countries to be delivered to our front door step. It enables the U.S. to project military presence across the globe, creates jobs that support local economies, and provides a source of recreation for all Americans. Fundamentally, the Nation’s economic and military security is closely linked to the health and functionality of the MTS (Marine Security Policy 2005, 2).
2 Andreas Peter, Border Game: Policing the U.S.-Mexico Divide, 2nd ed. (Cornel University Press), 69.
3 Khalid Nazir, Maritime Security Initiative Post -9/11: Implications for the Port Sector (Kuala Lumpur: Maritime Institute of Malaysia, 2007), 2.
4 Hastings Paul, “Fresh security initiatives to thwart terrorists”, Cargo News Asia 29, no.7 (April 2005):12.
5 Khalid, “Maritime Security Initiative Post -9/11” 3.
6 The U.S. Coast Guard estimated that a terrorist attack causing the closure of a major American port would result in $60 billion in losses to the U.S. economy in just the first 30 days. A study conducted in April 2003 by policy consultants at U.S.-based Abt Associates estimated an even higher impact, projecting that “a successful attack would create disruption of U.S. trade valued at $100-200 billion, property damage of $50-500 billion, and 50,000 to 1,000,000 lives could be lost” (Khalid 2007, 3).
7 Khalid, “Maritime Security Initiative Post -9/11”, 4.
8 An incident was staged by journalists from ABC News in the U.S. in September 2003 to expose security weaknesses in American ports. They managed to smuggle into the Port of Los Angeles from Jakarta, Indonesia about 15 pounds of depleted uranium, a harmless substance that is legal to import into the U.S., in a steel pipe with a lead lining placed in a suitcase. Although the container was selected for screening, it remained unopened and the consignment was delivered with the original container steel intact (Ross and Rhonda 2012).
9 Ross, Brian and Rhonda Shwartz, “Customs Fails to Detect Depleted Uranium”. ABC News.
10 Maritime Security Policy, Maritime Transportation System Security Recommendations for the National Strategy for Maritime Security (The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2005), 2.
11 U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
12 Khalid, “Maritime Security Initiative Post -9/11”, 4.
13 ISPS Code, International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.
14 Ibid., 5.
15 Khalid, “Maritime Security Initiative Post -9/11”, 5.
16 ISPS Code, “International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code” 2.
17 Customs Trade Collaboration against Terrorism is an initiative introduced by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in collaboration with carriers, brokers and warehouse operators to improve security of ports. It contains guidelines to enhance the maritime supply chain and to improve its performance while mitigating the risk of loss, damage, theft and the introduction of potentially dangerous elements into the supply chain (US Container Security Initiatives 2004, 5).
18 US Container Security Initiatives, Container security: Major initiatives and related international developments (Geneva: UNCTAD, 2004), 4.
19 CSI is a strategic program aimed at securing what is believed to be the most vulnerable link in the global supply chain – the ocean-going container. It entails the inspection of high-risk containers by U.S. CBP officials at foreign ports before they are shipped into American shores and contains four basic elements:
- Using intelligence and automated information to identify and target containers that poses a risk for terrorism;
- Pre-screening those containers that pose a risk at the port of departure before they arrive at US ports;
- Employing detection technology to quickly pre-screen containers that pose a risk; and
- Using smarter, tamper-evident containers ( US Container Initiatives 2004, 8)
20 Khalid, “Maritime Security Initiative Post -9/11”, 6.
21 Center for Transportation Logistics, Supply chain response to terrorism – Planning for the unexpected (Cambridge: MIT, 2002), 14.
22 US Container Security Initiatives, “Container security” 8.
23 Khalid, “Maritime Security Initiative Post -9/11”, 7.
24 Maritime Security Policy, Maritime Transportation System Security Recommendations for the National Strategy for Maritime Security (The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2005), 2.
25 Shippers in Hong Kong, one of the biggest container ports, were critical of plans by terminal operators there to impose security levy on each import and export box. They argued that it was unfair for the terminal operators to pass the security costs to them as they already had to bear the brunt of such measures through inconveniences such as delays in cargo processing. Australian shippers also cried foul over the lack of transparency in container terminal security fees and ocean carriers’ ISPS Code ship fees (Bichou 2004, 330).
26 Report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, took to task several post 9/11 security programs, namely C-TPAT and CSI, and revealed several security gaps within them. While giving the thumbs up to the contribution of these procedures in boosting maritime security, the GAO assessed that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (U.S. CBP) vetting process of cargos was not thorough enough (Khalid 2007, 9).
27 Ibid., 10.