U.S. says sharper focus on container security in order

| Monday, September 13, 2004

The United States is placing a renewed emphasis on the possibility that trucks carrying nuclear bombs could be triggered by remote control after they leave busy ports in Los Angeles and New York City, according to CNN, The Associated Press and federal officials.

Currently only a small percentage of shipping containers is opened and inspected.

Now, however, ships more likely to be inspected are from ports in Africa and the former Soviet Union, Coast Guard officials said Sept. 9.

The increased attention results from the failure of 17 countries to confirm they meet new international port security standards that took effect July 1.

The Coast Guard will also board more vessels that sail under the flags of 13 countries – including Russia, the Netherlands and Thailand – because their compliance with the new security standards has been below average. The standards require every ship to have a security officer, an alarm system, access restrictions to the engine room and bridge and a method of checking IDs of people who come aboard

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard on Sept. 10 issued a list of countries whose vessels will be targeted for increased boarding because for two months there’s been below average compliance with international security standards.

“Approximately 200 vessels call on U.S. ports every day,” said Adm. Thomas H. Collins, Coast Guard commandant. “We must focus our resources on those ships that present the greatest risk. The past compliance of vessels from these countries shows us that they haven’t implemented basic security measures, increasing the security risk posed to our ports when they arrive here.”

Ships at specified ports in Africa and the former Soviet Union are more likely than other vessels to be boarded and inspected when they enter U.S. ports, the Coast Guard said.

9/11 commission report adds to cargo concerns
The independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks said current efforts to protect the United States’ 361 ports from terrorists are inadequate. In a recently released addendum to its original report, the commission said the Homeland Security Department, which oversees the Coast Guard, should “bolster efforts to identify, track and screen suspicious cargo entering the country from foreign ports.”

The 17 countries that have not reported that their ports comply with international standards are Albania, Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kiribati, Lebanon, Liberia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nauru, Nigeria, Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, the Solomon Islands and Suriname.

The flag states whose vessels will be targeted for increased boardings are Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, the Cayman Islands, the Cook Islands, Cyprus, Honduras, Hong Kong, Malta, the Netherlands, Panama, Russia, Singapore and Thailand.

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