Today, 85 percent of all international trade in raw material and manufactured goods travels by sea; tankers carry more thanhalf of the world’s oil; and seaborne transport is critical to defense.
As such, protecting maritime commerce is vital to the security of the international community –a responsibility that relies heavily on the combined efforts of the United States, Great Britain and NATO.
Despite anticipated development of a new generation of long-range global strike aircraft and rapidly deployable combat forces, it’s highly unlikely American and British militaries can sustain a major campaign in the foreseeable future without the capacity to transport significant assets by ship.
“It’s clear security at sea continues to be a major area of concern for shipping companies” warned Capt. Gerry Northwood in Homeland Security Today, October/November 2015.
An expert in counter piracy and chief operation officer of MAST, a maritime security company that provides comprehensive security advice and systems to ship owners, Northwood subsequently told Homeland Security Today in a recent interview that the current threats facing the maritime community and challenges of port security are critical. The cyber attack on the Port of Antwerp in 2013 in which the cargo container management system was hacked, Northwood said served as an example of how badly things can go wrong. The attack allowed criminals to remove containers or their contents.
After 9/11, the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code amended the Safety of Life at Sea Convention on minimum security arrangements for ships, ports and government agencies. It was designed to ensure cargo security remains intact and that authorities know what ships carry what cargo.
“The code is implemented globally and is very well applied in America and Europe,” Northwood said. “However, there is the possibility that some cargos may not have been well scrutinized at some ports of origin.”
Despite ISPS implementation in Antwerp, criminals circumvented the system, suggesting that other computerized security systems anywhere in the world are vulnerable.
The clear threat is that a container can carry something that it’s not supposed to. In Antwerp it was drugs, but such breaches could potentially include weapons or explosives.