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Evaluate the nature and severity of the risks posed by terrorism to the maritime / shipping industry and critically assess the approaches that are in place to manage the identified vulnerabilities. 

This paper aims to highlight some of the risks posed by terrorist activity towards vessels at sea or at port. It aims to identify why maritime crafts are an attractive target for an attack and what security measures are in place to try and counteract acts of terrorism. Policymakers, the FBI and intelligence cooperation’s have become ever more anxious of possible future maritime attacks by terrorists. The marine environment possesses a unique set of characteristics that may appeal to terrorist activity. This paper examines the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in the US and the extent to which terrorism is a threat to the maritime industry (why is it an attractive industry to attack). The paper then considers some of the security measures in place and evaluates their success. Maritime terrorism is an important aspect to identify and evaluate due to the large level of destruction that could be caused by a maritime attack. The paper suggests in conclusion that inconsistent and poorly implemented security systems along with the vast unprotected open terrain of the sea suggest that the maritime industry is vulnerable to attack. Maritime terrorism has the potential to take lives and become highly troublesome to worldwide trading. This paper pays particular attention to the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) and looks as reasons why the ISPS may not be working as well as intended. 

On September 11th 2001, 4 hijacked planes initiated emotional and destructive havoc amongst the United States of America, with the largest terrorist attacks ever seen in US history. Approximately 2800 innocent civilians lost their lives when 2 planes struck the World Trade Centre (Galea et al. 2003, p.514), another striking the Pentagon and finally the fourth crashing into desolate land in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The number of individuals affected through bereavement and post-traumatic stress is unfathomable. Although always an issue, security at the international level has become paramount since the 9/11 attacks in America. Oil exploration has often been the target of military activity (Kenny 2004, p.38) and attacks have been made on oil tankers and terminals. As earlier assaults have shown, gas and oil facilities are susceptible installations which are problematical in regards to security (Kozlow and Sullivan, 2000, p.204). Between 1961 and 2004, there were 13 recorded high profile attacks, resulting in 150 deaths (Chalk 2008, p.47) and a further 2,463 acts of piracy were recorded worldwide between 2000 and 2006. In October 2002, Al-Qaeda attacked a French tanker amongst the Gulf of Aden (Luft & Korin 2004, p.11) and again on the Super Ferry 14, near Corregidor Island (Abuza 2005, p.1). Each attack saw the loss of the lives of workers and destruction to property.

The attractiveness of a cruise liner to jihadist terrorists is reflected in the number of individuals within a small geographic location and the fact that they represent the materialistic culture of the Westernised world (Greenberg et al. 2006, p.75). Further assumptions are that passengers are more likely to be of Christian background, posing as a small threat to Muslim casualties. Greenberg et al. also note the ‘CNN effect’ of striking a major ocean liner will gain the nationwide attention that jihadist extremists are so hungry for. The attack will not only affect those on the liner and their family and friends on land, but the effect will touch all those that are able to witness the destruction through media portrayals. Furthermore, it is suggested that lack of security at the port for passenger ferries gives the extremist an advantage;

“…extant security measures at passenger terminals vary greatly and even in developed littoral states such as the Netherlands, Canada, the United Kingdom, and United States are not nearly as extensive as those employed for cruise liners (much less aircraft).” Herbert-Burns, Bateman & Lehr, 2008, p.124) 

Maritime terrorism is a new threat to the authorities which has overlaps with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as counter-proliferation policies may not now be appropriate or may present as inadequate (Nincic 2005, p.614). Just as New York had no policies in place to deal with an attack on the scale of 9/11, the maritime industry will not have policies o protect against every eventuality.

Different factors can explain the terrorist shift to water-based attacks. There has been an increase in piracy over the past 6 years due to the vulnerability of vessels at sea and the same weaknesses in the system also apply to terrorist attacks (Chalk 2008, p.15). There has also been a development within business domains with specialist interests in maritime sports and equipment and the Western economy has entered into Eastern commerce (Allen & Donnithorne 2003, p.13) . This has allowed terrorist to access equipment usually utilised by marine operators and gain the necessary skills to operate the equipment (just as the jihadist extremists enrolled in flight school and were thus able to fly the aeroplanes which crashed at the World Trade Centre, The Pentagon and in Pennsylvania). If terrorists are able to attack maritime vessels then they are likely to be able to cause a mass of financial disturbance across nations, especially if the terrorists were to take attack on a major commercial port. Much of the worlds commercial products are distributed by sea and a major disturbance to a port may cause an overwhelming hindrance on the everyday running of commercial enterprises and ‘panic buying’ amongst members of the public. The shipping system across the world has deficits which make it ripe for terrorist attacks and the perfect environment for them to transport weapons and personnel across locations although there has been an increase in portside security measures post 9/11 (Romero 2003, p.597). The maritime transportation system was designed to be as manageable and adaptable as possible to keep international trading costs down. This has therefore meant that security systems are not as rigorous as they should be. As such, many interception points exposed, allowing for the ease of entry by terrorists/extremists. When transporting container ships across the globe, the unsuccessful security measures have meant that individuals who wish to tamper with containers or use them for illegal transportation do not have to fight against much resistance (see Coppens, 2011, p.55, for ease of access to immigrant stowaways).

Methods of transportation and entry into countries via air and sea became a priority and have seen implementation of security protocols to attempt to supersede the level of attack possible. In 2004, the Safety of Life at Sea Treaty was joined by the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) and it became compulsory for every country to abide by the rules of the code. This was specifically prominent in areas that were more likely to be vulnerable to attack and to help prevent maritime terrorism. There have been difficulties in the past with the definition of terrorism (Alexander 1990, p.529) yet more recent definitions have been proposed. Maritime terrorism is;

“Maritime terrorism refers to the undertaking of terrorist acts and activities (1) within the maritime environment, (2) using or against vessels or fixed platforms at sea or in port, or against any one of their passengers or personnel, (3) against coastal facilities or settlements, including tourist resorts, port areas and port towns or cities” (Chalk 2008, p.3). 

The ISPS was first adopted by the International Maritime Organisation in the year of 2002, and outlines procedures that ports must adopt when allowing ships above 500 tons to enter through ports. The authorities based at each of the ports has right to refuse entry to vessels which do not meet the criteria of the ISPS. This is also true of any ship leaving the port. The ISPS contains an all-inclusive array of measures to provide high level security to port amenities and ships in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

“The ISPS Code is implemented through chapter XI-2 Special measures to enhance maritime security in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974.”(IMO 2011).

The code is comprised of two parts, of which one is mandatory. The code is a risk management protocol which has determined the level of security required and provides tools to allow for risk assessments to be made for each ship entering and leaving the port. The code is written to allow there to be an offset change in relation to perceived levels of threat as recommended by government.

The ISPS has been varyingly successful across the world and it is noted that there are inconsistencies between ports which have implemented the code (Lloyd’s List, 2000). Overall assessments have been made of the ISPS and the successfulness in regards to levels of implementation although the amount of research relating evaluations is limited. The findings of Raymond (2004) showed that generally there was a good implementation of the code across the globe, yet it did not find that this reduced their susceptibility to attacks. The findings of Zec, Francic and Simic, (2005) who investigated the smaller ports across the globe noted serious issues with future threats. The authors note;

“…certain new threats (such as certain criminal activities) are not yet anticipated as activities to be covered by the ISPS system; consequently, the system has to be amended as to be able to efficiently response to these threats.” Zec, Francic and Simic, (200, p.7).

Furthermore, Shahbazian et al. (2009) investigated portside security in Norway and Wengelin (2006)in Sweden. Findings were all similar in that they found a lack of understanding amongst port personnel. Burmester (2005) summarised their findings and found that staff both at sea and based at the port were unclear of the guidelines set by the ISPS. They also felt that the ISPS did not fulfil many areas of maritime security and that the inconsistency across different ships and ports meant that communication became difficult. Yilmazel & Asyali (2006) noted that information sharing in regards to security had not been developed and that their compliance with international inspection frameworks was poor. It would appear that the ISPS, although a deterrent against a variety of threats, has both advantages and drawbacks in regards to the level of security that it offers and that some areas are not adhering to the code as they should. Kasum, Vidan and Baljak (2008)suggested that reasons for such lack of adherence were partly due to a inadequate sense of the level of threat that they could face and also due to the economy; some localities were deemed to have little funding available for such preventative measures and therefore could not be viewed as cost effective. Further issues lay in the fact that there currently appears to be little or no way of auditing the success of the ISPS code, nor methods to assess the general success/development of port/dock security (Chalk 2008, p.16). 

There appears to be a mismatch between the compulsory nature of the ISPS code, and the level of adherence noted amongst researchers. If the IMO has made a decision to enforce regulations across ports, then questions arise as to why such measures are not being implemented. If the regulations of the ISPS are not implemented, there does not appear to be measures in place to penalise or rectify such circumstances. If the port in question does not appear to have the economic status to implement the code, then the port should either be supported with the funds to implement the code, or those of marine authority should take preventative measures in the form of penalties or port closure. When lives are at risk from terrorism, there is little that commanding organisations should not be prepared to do. Bichou (2004, p.322) suggests that the focus of the ISPS code needs to be removed from the overall running of ports and shifted to the supply chain network. That is, all aspects of a route that one ship will take need to have securely implemented the ISPS code, or the ship should not be allowed to embark. If this level of security is in place, then the risk of vulnerabilities amongst route are likely to be reduced as smaller ports or those without the necessary funding are not vulnerable to attack.

Bichou further suggests a three stage model for the ISPS relating to risk assessment and management, channel design and process mapping, and cost control and performance monitoring. The monitoring of all three of these areas is hoped to reduce the vulnerabilities of weaker ports. The US has made several moves to upgrading their marine security after the realisation of the severity posed by terrorist attacks following 9/11(Bateman 2007, p.241) including upgrades to; the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, the Container Security Initiative (Romero 2003, p.597), the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (Chalk 2008, p.16). The US has also paid particular attention to initiating its own regimental policies in maritime security deemed as vital in its own anti-terrorism stratagem. Chalk further notes both positives and negatives in the implementation of such upgrades and counter terrorism schemes. Optimistic developments have allowed for an improved visibility to that which is operational in maritime logistics. It was noted that before the upgrades, much of what went on at ports and vessels was not visible to those in security. However, the schemes have not been a total success. The schemes are limited in their capacity; they appear to concentrate of a reinforcement of security measures around ports and do not incorporate the screening of freights.

Maritime security is not merely related to the ports. The surrounding vicinity is also at risk of attack. The beginning of a container, set for voyage upon a container ship does not start at portside. The container is packed at another location and then makes its journey into port. This suggests that security needs to be implemented at the hinterland to allow for a continuous flow of traffic which meets maritime security protocol. Although the threat of attack will only apply to the ‘today’ aspect of the port, they should have a level of responsibility for all those affected once the vessel embarks including the intended destination (Blümel et al. 2008, p.205). Concerns arise when the statistics relating to container security are scrutinised in more detail. Each year, the US alone sends 8,000 vessels to complete 51,000 port calls and delivering approximately 7.5 million overseas containers. Of these 7.5 million containers, only 2% face a security search as each container takes approximately 3 hours to search (Mellor 2002, p.343).The 7,350,000 vessels left unsearched are potentially open to a terrorist attack, even allowing transportation of WMD without the port authorities having an ounce of knowing. It would appear that the searching of water bound craft is a time-consuming affair. After the July 2005 bombings in London, all motor vehicles heading for Calais were ordered to allow for more rigorous searching than normally required. Although each individual search did not take long, tailbacks stemmed over 4 miles (Herbert-Burns, Bateman & Lehr, 2008, p.124). More disturbing is the lack of background knowledge on the crew members and knowing if the ships are following security protocol. No matter how hard a port works at securing itself, if the vessel or crew members are not following equal measures, then an attack is imminent.

This paper has examined the consequences of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, The Pentagon and the attempted final terrorist attack which resulted in the plane crash in Pennsylvania.  9/11 provided us with an indication to the extent to which terrorism may become a threat to the maritime industry (the materialistic nature of western society was examined and the small geographical location able to house thousands of civilians). The paper considered some of the security measures in with predominance of focus on the ISPS and evaluated their success. Research into the domain of maritime terrorism and the security measures in place for prevention, do not give much reassurance. It appears that there is a major problem in regards to the level of security at portside or sea which is nowhere near reflective of that now implemented in airports and airspace. The biggest issue apparent to a researcher is that of a dismissive attitude to the level of seriousness that is presented by a terrorist attack at some of the smaller ports and less economically prosperous regions across the globe. Although the IMO made the ISPS mandatory at every port across the globe, it is clear that these regulations are not followed at every port. More disturbing however is the fact that many members of the maritime industry do not understand the protocol of the ISPS. There is a breakdown of communication apparent amongst the leaders of the maritime industry and those who are employed at portside. If there are not ample measures in place (training, focus groups and employee feedback) then there is no way of monitoring the level of understanding across the globe. Risk communication needs to become more commonplace amongst portside facilities. It is a vital part risk assessment and the procedure of risk organisation (Lundgren & McMakin 2009, p.1) as it prepares security teams to ‘identify, assess, evaluate and manage risks’ (Centre for Security Studies 2009, p.1). The time taken to adequately assess the security of vehicles, individuals and containers embarking vessels needs to be investigated and a routine protocol implemented. Without these fundamental issues being rectified, then it appears as if the maritime industry is very vulnerable to a terrorist attack.

It would be preferential for security measures to be designed to prevent an attack that mirrors 9/11 on the maritime industry, rather than implementing an acceptable protocol after a strike on maritime vessels as was seen in the wake of terrorist attacks in America in regards to airport security.        


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