Marine Log

June 28, 2006

Think tank says port security focus should be on recovery

A new study of U.S. seaport security by a California think tank says that because there is no foolproof way to protect America's ports from a terrorist attack, current policies and programs need to focus much more on recovery and economic restoration.

Released by the Public Policy Institute of California, Protecting the Nation's Seaports: Balancing Security and Cost examines in detail the full dimensions of the task of port security, including the effectiveness of measures undertaken so far, and the costs to the nation—both of implementing adequate port security, and of failing to do so

It finds that limited staff, time, and money have led to slipped schedules, unclear priorities, uncoordinated strategies and programs, and vague lines of responsibility.

"No matter what we do to protect the ports, it will not be enough to ensure--absolutely--against an attack at some location," says PPIC program director Jon Haveman, who edited the report with PPIC research fellow Howard Shatz.

One of the report's strongest recommendations is that comprehensive recovery plans be created specifically to reduce economic panic and to restore global supply chains quickly following a catastrophe.

"How well government reacts to the problems caused by an attack is probably as important as how well it anticipates them," says Shatz.

Rigorous recovery plans may also serve as a disincentive to terrorists, who have been shown to focus on targets where they can do the most damage--economic and otherwise.

Besides recovery, the report recommends a number of important but potentially costly security measures.

The report, Protecting the Nation's Seaports: Balancing Security and Cost, says it is critical to implement these measures in such a way that justifies the costs and balances different types of threats – because strengthening one target along the maritime supply chain, or even the entire supply chain, necessarily means making other targets more vulnerable.

You can access the report here: