Internationally, port cities and their surrounding areas are experiencing dramatic increases in various forms of maritime crime, such as the theft and in-transit hijacking of entire containers and trailers and the smuggling of drugs and migrants. Highly organized and sophisticated criminal groups are committing maritime crime with the ability to exploit the international commercial shipping trades. Port security departments must be prepared to counter the various international security threats. The characteristics of several of those security threats and issues are described below.
Port security must have an anti-terrorist component to contend with the possibility of a terrorist attack directed against port facilities and vessels within a ports jurisdiction or the territorial waters of the state. As is true with other port security programs, any anti-terrorist planning or implementation will necessitate extensive coordination with governmental authorities at the national and, possibly, international levels.
At a minimum, an essential function for port security is the dissemination of warning information to alert users of the port to the threat of terrorist activities. Such advisories elevate awareness regarding terrorist threats and focus the attention of the maritime industry on increasing its own security posture during the period of warning.
Information of potential terrorist activity will most likely originate from national or international governmental authorities in law enforcement or intelligence agencies. Port security should be involved in the response system at least to the extent necessary to alert and protect the community of port users.
Port security should be active in working cooperatively with ocean, truck, and rail carriers and other port users to establish anti-terrorist response capabilities in advance of the need. Port security services should include assisting with the review of vulnerabilities pertaining to shipboard and terminal security plans and contingency response procedures for both freight and passenger trades.
Sea robbery is a term used to describe attacks upon commercial vessels in ports and territorial waters. Such attacks are, according to international law, not true acts of piracy but rather armed robberies. They are criminal assaults on vessels and vessel crews, just as may occur to truck drivers within a port area. Such attacks pose a serious threat to trade. The methods of these attacks have varied from direct force using heavy weapons to subterfuge in which the criminals have identified themselves on VHF radio as the national coast guard.
These maritime criminals are inclined to operate in waters where government presence is weak, often lacking in both technical resources and the political will to deal effectively with such attacks. International law permits any warship or government vessel to repress an attack in international waters. In a state’s territorial waters, such attacks constitute an act of armed robbery and must be dealt with under the laws of the relevant coastal state. These laws seldom, if ever permit a vessel or warship from another country to intervene. The most effective countermeasure strategy is to prevent criminal’s initial access to ports and vessels, and to demonstrate a consistent ability to respond rapidly and effectively to notification of such a security breach.
Cargo theft has become a growing problem in many countries and the transnational character of cargo theft is becoming increasingly evident. Investigations have linked criminals involved in cargo theft with transnational drug trafficking and money laundering activities. Cargo theft can become so severe a problem in a country as to constitute a serious threat to the flow of commerce.
To effectively counter cargo theft and truck hijacking, port security personnel must be thoroughly familiar with the port’s physical facilities and the operations of its terminals. They should also be aware of the details of cargo handling operations scheduled for the day, including berths, ships, and times. Further, there is a need to be closely familiar with the names of trucking companies, warehouse operators, and drivers doing business with the port, in addition to their practices and reputations. Hijackers’ acting with apparent information about the cargo manifests suggests that collusion is occurring at the intermodal freight interchange points.
Another element needed to combat this threat is a comprehensive data base of cargo loss compiled through a formal system of reporting and analysis. This is an essential analytic tool for reducing theft-related losses in the maritime industry. These data bases are needed in each country in order to develop a comprehensive assessment of the problem. The lack of such a database has been an obstacle to effective cooperative action by the industry, local law enforcement, and government agencies.
Stowaways and Alien Smuggling
Stowaways jeopardize the integrity of international maritime commerce. The risk for ports and ocean carriers is being elevated by the increased use of containers in organized criminal conspiracies to smuggle transnational migrants. Adding to that risk is the migration of millions of people worldwide, impelled by various motivations. The volume of migrants is increasing the percentage of those likely to become ocean stowaways to escape their situation. Stowaways result in service disruption and revenue losses for vessel operators, which typically are held legally responsible for repatriation.
Port security must be capable of preventing stowaways through physical access controls at terminal facilities in port areas and at vessels, at warehouses, and at cargo storage areas. The methods of operation employed to smuggle stowaways aboard ship are strikingly similar in ports worldwide. However, sophisticated smuggling efforts are placing stowaways in containers during the freight forwarding phase, before delivery to the marine terminal, thereby increasing the challenge to port security.
Complicity of corrupt port and vessel personnel enabling stowaways’ access is a crucial issue with which port security must contend. Stowaways are gaining access to ships disguised among, and aided by, crews of legitimate port workers. Stowaways may board vessels as part of stevedoring crews or with others who have port and vessel access. Adding to the difficulty of identification, stowaways may carry fraudulent documents, such as passports and visas.
Ports are vulnerable to being used by sophisticated smuggling schemes which rely on concealment of narcotics in shipments of commercial containerized maritime trade. Smugglers are utilizing front companies or exploiting legitimate shippers in the process.
A port must accept responsibility for ensuring or taking the steps necessary to prevent its facilities from being used by drug smugglers. Included in this responsibility are physical security measures such as access controls, lighting, and patrols of the port.
There must also be a coordinated effort with those shipping companies using the port’s facilities. This may include agreements to either have the ship operators conduct a vessel search for drugs or a cooperative search of the vessel by the ship’s crew and port security personnel. Additionally, contacts should be made with various enforcement authorities to obtain assistance and intelligence that can be used in helping them curtail drug smuggling operations from a ports facilities.
The growing volume of containerized maritime trade also provides opportunities for smuggling illicit drugs and the precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Concealment of illicit shipments manifested as legitimate commercial cargoes, and the diversion of legal chemicals following legitimate transactions by unscrupulous shippers is a serious problem. Port security should include controls on precursor chemicals shipped through the port and be able to implement methods and procedures for investigating the theft or diversion of precursor and essential chemicals. Availability of auditable documentation of chemicals and their producing companies throughout their shipping cycle within the port is of crucial importance.
It is important for port security to contribute to countering currency smuggling by coordinating its efforts with the responsible law enforcement agencies. Currency smuggling is an integral component in the money laundering process and the accumulation of illegitimate wealth. Organized crime uses that financial power to corrupt officials, infiltrate legitimate business through legal purchases and criminal means, and create monopolies. According to the U.S. Department of State’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, the increasing concentrations of wealth among organized criminal groups is a concern to legitimate commerce, government, and the integrity of the political process in several parts of the world. Illicit funds and corrupt officials represent a continuing threat to democracy worldwide.
Smuggling currency out of the country in export cargo is facilitated by the freight container itself, which offers considerable opportunities for smuggling bulk currency concealed in legitimate shipments.
THE OTHER SIDES OF FLAG OF CONVENIENCE (Continued from last week)
There is nowadays no consistent correlation between open registers and ship safety. While most of the flags with consistently poor safety records are open registers, other registers that are categorized as open by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) have better records than most conventional national registers. In 2008, the Paris MOU on Port State Control showed Bermuda at the top of their "white-list".
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) website says that “FOCs provide a means of avoiding labour regulation in the country of ownership, and become a vehicle for paying low wages and forcing long hours of work and unsafe working conditions. Since FOC ships have no real nationality, they are beyond the reach of any single national seafarers’ trade union. They also accuse such ships of having low safety standards and no construction requirements.
…… Environmental groups
Several environmental groups have also campaigned against Flags of Convenience in regards to their use by illegal fishing operations. Opponents argue that many of the countries that allow foreign-owned vessels to fly their flag lack the resources or the will to properly monitor and control those vessels. The Environmental Justice Foundation contends that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing vessels use Flags of Convenience to avoid fisheries regulations and controls. Flags of Convenience help reduce the operating costs associated with legal fishing methods, and help illegal operators avoid prosecution and hide beneficial ownership. As a result, Flags of Convenience perpetuate IUU fishing which has extensive environmental, social and economic impacts, particularly in developing countries. The EJF is campaigning to end the granting of Flags of Convenience to fishing vessels as an effective measure to combat IUU fishing.
But, Not Without Support
Supporters of flags of convenience argue that where a vessel is engaged in international trade, it should be free to register in the jurisdiction which best suits its commercial model. Proponents argue that the choice of flags allows companies to take advantage of another country’s infrastructure and the efficiencies of effective and non-bureaucratic maritime administrations typically offered by the prominent open registers.
An open registry allows a Norwegian owner access to US public finance, Japanese shipbuilding expertise with Scottish and Hong Kong ship managers , while employing skillful crews from Philippines, India or China. Before the open registry system, national flags required national ownership, national construction and national crew. Flags of convenience enable both lower costs of registration and maintenance. This in turn reduces overall transportation costs.
Many nations, categorized either as open or national registries, effectively implement and enforce the international treaties of the International Maritime Organization, such as the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) and the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS), all of which require minimum standards for vessels trading internationally. Further, several open registers including Liberia have ratified the International Labour Organization’s Consolidated Maritime Convention of 2006, which specifically protects the interest and rights of seafarers. National registries have yet to ratify this international treaty.
Dirty Linen: Crew Battles Capt. Philips Of Maersk Alabama Over New Book
Call it “Mutiny on the Book Tour.” The captain of a cargo ship; Maersk Alabama which was hijacked by Somali pirates last year is firing back at his former crew, some of whom now accuse him of penning a whale of a high-seas saga that makes him out to be a hero rather than a bumbling fool.
“I stand by the book,” said Capt. Richard Phillips, who was at the helm of the Maersk Alabama when it was overtaken off the coast of Africa last April. “I was just doing my job, and I’ve always said that.”
Nearly all of Phillips’ crew – 16 of 19 members, not including local First Mate Shane Murphy – is calling the captain’s new book, “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy Seals, and Dangerous Days at Sea,” self-serving at best and lies at worst.
Phillips questioned the timing of the complaints, coinciding with the book tour.
“Where were they a week after the incident?” Phillips asked.
“His rendition of the events leading to him being held hostage are totally contradictory from talking to the crew, and I’ve talked to many of the crew members,” said Michael Forbes, a Philadelphia lawyer speaking for the crew.
Among the criticisms:
*Phillips in the book acts after Able Seaman ATM Reza warns of an approaching skiff, but the crew contends the captain ignored the warnings and even got Reza’s name wrong in the book.
*Phillips says he dispatched the crew to a saferoom after the pirates attacked, but the crew say there wasn’t one on board. They were forced to hide in a sweltering makeshift shelter.
*And the hero captain claims he volunteered to go as a hostage to save his crew, but the crew argues he was captured.
Phillips, in a phone interview, insisted his book makes clear he was captured by the pirates. He also acknowledged getting Reza’s name wrong. But the rest of the crew’s claims should be tossed overboard, he said.
The mutiny on the Maersk isn’t about his book but about the crew members feeling they haven’t gotten the credit they deserved. And that’s the media’s fault, Phillips said.
“The media made it out to be me when it was me and my crew,” Phillips said.
Indeed, said Forbes, it is all about giving credit where credit is due. He said Phillips has hoarded the glory like pirate booty since the ocean rescue by Navy SEALS.
“I’d like to say, how many times has he been quoted giving any praise or credit to the crew,” Forbes said. “He’s not once reached out to the crew. He portrays them as hired help.
Appropriate Words Describing Criminal/Anti-Shipping Activities
In order to promote consistent use of accurate terms of reference, the following are adopted to describe the range of criminal, anti-shipping activities and impediments to safe navigation.
BOARDING – Unauthorized presence on the ship whether in port or underway.
ROBBERY – Theft from a vessel or from persons aboard the vessel.
KIDNAP – Unauthorized forcible removal of persons belonging to the vessel from it.
HIJACK – Unauthorized seizure and retention of a vessel by persons not part of its complement.
FIRING UPON – Weapons discharged at or toward a vessel.
ATTEMPTED BOARDING – Close approach or hull-to-hull contact with report that boarding
paraphernalia were employed or visible in the approaching boat.
SUSPICIOUS APPROACH – All other unexplained close proximity of an unknown vessel.
BLOCKING – Hampering safe navigation, docking, or undocking of a vessel as a means of protest.
Please note that these terms relate to observable activity and are independent of target vessel status and exclude actions by governmental authorities in lawful pursuit of their authority