Marine industry finds problems with security proposals
"The Maritime industry has found specific problems with proposed anti-terrorist legislation" says John Mangels, a principal partner with the Maritime Security Group of Wilton CT. The group, which was founded earlier this year by Mangels and three other former Stolt-Nielsen executives, has just released the results of a survey conducted over the last two months in conjunction with the Connecticut Maritime Association.
The purpose of the survey was to solicit commentary from the maritime industry on anti-terrorism legislation being proposed at IMO. While maritime industry respondents broadly agreed with the need for new rules on maritime security the survey uncovered several areas of concern.
- Real time tracking of dry box containers.
- Fire arms on ships?
- Who's in charge here?
- Smaller ships can carry bombs too.
- Industry needs actionable intelligence.
The survey clearly identified the most likely maritime threat environment to be the dry box container. It is estimated that 20-30,000 of these containers enter the United States every day from all over the world. A majority of survey respondents thought that the estimated two percent of these containers that are currently visually inspected by U.S. Customs should be increased to the region of five percent. They also agreed with the need to develop new risk-based approaches such as electronic documentation, electronic seals and new x-ray technologies.
One of the most controversial issues on the survey dealt with the ability of ships to defend themselves. The number of respondents were roughly divided in half over whether ships should be provided with firearms to protect themselves and combat terrorists. The presumption is that firearms would be provocative to terrorists. This same issue seems to go hand in hand with another issue raised by the survey, the need for ship security officers.
The survey identified a strong sentiment that ships do not have sufficient staff to enable someone to assume the additional duties of a ship security officer. Ships' staff are already often overwhelmed with paper work and would see the requirement as "one more manual on the bookshelf." The captain already is the ship security officer; that is his job!
Along the same vein, respondents identified that ships do not have adequate staff to man surveillance cameras and stern facing radar. Ships have been forced to reduce crew numbers down to a point where additional assignments cannot be undertaken without sacrificing other work assignments and ultimately ship safety.
The proposed new rules would create the position of port facility security officer who would have important new duties. Among these duties respondents thought that this officer should be empowered to refuse entry of a ship to the port facility for cause. This would be an important new power that certainly has the potential for abuse, with unintended results. Similarly, 52% of respondents thought that a (ship) company security officer should have the authority to reject a port for security reasons, another new power that could again have unintended ramifications.
The survey also identified concerns on the subject of Automatic Identification System, or AIS. While 93 % of respondents agreed with the need for AIS, 77% felt carriage requirements should extend to ships smaller than the proposed 500 grt and 76% thought that the capability should be of a longer range than VHF (line of sight).
The survey identified a concern that terrorists might again use smaller vessels like the motorized inflatable used to attack the USS Cole.
There was strong support for fitting ships with an alarm to be activated onboard to alert authorities of a terrorist hijacking, and even support for the cost of the device being born by the shipowner. Interestingly 37 % of respondents felt that the alarm should not be silent.
The importance of a uniform global regulatory regime was also underscored by the survey.
"This is a global industry and it need global rules" says Mangels. The industry is familiar with the US Coast Guard and 90% of respondents identified the Coast Guard as the best unit to manage and control Maritime Security in the United States. However training needs to be part of an international effort and thus 86% felt that training should be developed by the IMO. Likewise 84% thought that the IMO should develop requirements for ship security plans while implementation should be the responsibility of shipowners.
The survey asked which concerns rated highest for people in the maritime industry. "Getting reliable information" rated highest while number two was to "Avoid dealing with multiple governmental agencies." Interestingly "Being part of the decision making process" rated lower on the list. "Expense of expected new legislation" also rated lower, but "avoiding time delays" rated highly.
"Time is money in this industry," says John Mangels, and "people are worried that new rules will be cumbersome and inefficient."
"The regulations being drawn up now will set the direction for the maritime industry for many years to come, and as such they are critical to our industry," says Don Frost, President of the Connecticut Maritime Association. "It is important that the views of the industry be taken into consideration."
The Maritime Security Group plans to share the results of the survey with the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration and with Congress.