July 3, 2007
GAO report notes Caribbean port security gaps
Could Americans waiting to board cruise ships in Caribbean ports be subject to the same sort of car bomb attack as that just seen at Glasgow Airport?
The growing influence of Islamic radical groups in the Caribbean Basin area region and poorly trained port security personnel are among issues highlighted in a newly released GAO report,
While intelligence sources report that no specific, credible terrorist threats to maritime security exist in the Caribbean Basin, "there are a number of security concerns that could affect port security in the region," says the GAO in a report submitted to Congress in accordance with the requirements of the SAFE Port Act of 2006.
The report says that "given the volume and value of [Caribbean Basin] maritime trade, the facilities and infrastructure of the maritime transportation system may be attractive targets for a terrorist attack."
The three most likely modes of attack in the port environment are a suicide attack using an explosive-laden vehicle or vessel, a standoff attack using small arms or rockets, and the traditional armed assault.
GAO says that there are also "a number of overarching security concerns that relate to the Caribbean Basin as a whole," including "the level of corruption that exists in some Caribbean nations to undermine the rule of law... organized gang activity occurring in proximity to or within port facilities, and the geographic proximity of many Caribbean countries, which has made them transit countries for cocaine and heroin destined for U.S. markets.
Other security concerns mentioned by U.S. agency officials "include stowaways, illegal migration, and the growing influence of Islamic radical groups and other foreign terrorist organizations."
The GAO also received Department of State comments noting that it and its contractors have witnessed open gates, poor screening of vehicles, and inadequate physical protections at ports with cruise line activity. The State Department stated that these deficiencies, coupled with poorly trained security personnel, can make cruise line terminals and cruise ships vulnerable to attack. According to the State Department, poor training of port security personnel is also an overarching security concern.