06 January 2004
New Regulations to Reduce Terrorist Threat to Shipping and Ports
Experts address maritime security issues at Africa Oil and Gas
By Charles W. Corey
Washington File Staff Writer
Houston -- Security is the single most important issue now facing
the international maritime industry because ocean-going ships have
become a "vector for terrorism," warns international
maritime expert Frank J. Gonynor.
Gonynor, an internationally acclaimed maritime lawyer and author
of many articles on the maritime industry, told those attending
the second annual Corporate Council on Africa's Oil and Gas Forum
in Houston, Texas recently, that times have changed dramatically
for ocean-going ships worldwide in the wake of the September 11
terrorist attack on the United States.
Gonynor was addressing the topic "Maritime Security: Africa
and Beyond" at a conference workshop, along with Russell Whitmarsh,
security department manager with the Port of Houston, and Jesse
W. Lewis Jr., a senior international maritime security consultant
with the international risk management company, Kroll. The three
outlined the security concerns that threaten shipping and ports
worldwide and that could have major impact on the oil and gas industry.
Gonynor reminded everyone of the ramming of the French oil tanker
Limburg in the Arabian Sea on October 6, 2002 by what was believed
to be a small explosive-packed boat. The attack caused major fire
and explosive damage to the ship, blowing a hole into its double-sided
hull and spilling 90,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf of Aden.
Security is important to the international maritime industry,
Gonynor told his audience because "ocean shipping cannot be
talked about in a vacuum.
"Sooner or later, a ship has to make land. It has to deliver,
discharge and load cargo, so it doesn't just involve the oceans
of the world but involves the ports of the world -- and the nations
that operate the ports of the world." For that reason, he
said, the overwhelming need for security and the ability to thwart
terrorist attacks at all major ports worldwide "echoes throughout
the entire economic system of the world."
New International Maritime Organization regulations that take
effect in July 2004, he said, will greatly impact security all
across the industry because those regulations impose several modifications
on the international shipping industry.
The new regulations will require that an automatic identification
system be placed on ships so that a ship's location can be plotted
at any moment in the event of an onboard emergency, including a
terrorist attack, he said.
Also under the new laws, Gonynor explained, all major ships will
have provide a synopsis record of all movements, ports of call
and cargoes and ownership of all ships will have to be detailed
so full transparency in this area can be achieved.
"They (international maritime authorities) don't want to
know just the names of the owning company, they want to know the
background of the principals. What do they own and what do they
do? Who is above them?" he said. They now require a " very
deep, detailed, hierarchal picture of the true ownership of a vessel."
"Is this really possible?" Gonynor asked rhetorically.
His own answer pointed to the difficulties in pulling together
this broad picture of the shipping industry.
Historically, Gonynor said many ships are privately owned and
their companies have been very reluctant to release much public
information, for both tax and competitive reasons. "It is
an entrenched culture of confidentiality that is going to have
to be changed," he stressed, throughout the entire shipping
Ships must also have a silent alarm or panic button installed
in at least two places onboard, he said, so it can be activated
in case of a terrorist attack. The new regulations do not spell
out what happens after an alarm is set off, he said, asking "What
happens then? Who will be responsible for the subsequent actions
that will needed to be taken" to respond to the alarm?
There will also be three distinct levels of security: Level One,
minimum but secure; Level Two, a heightened risk of incident; and
Level Three; which defines a finite period during which an incident
is expected to happen, he said, and this eliminates the old non-secure
baseline on which all previous alerts were based.
"The first level is a higher degree than has ever been experienced
before in the maritime world," he said. "Security is
continuous and mandatory. It is not reactive but prophylactic.
It must be preventative."
The United States government, he told his audience, has strongly
pushed the adoption of these new maritime security laws and has
also evaluated the security levels of a broad array of international
ports. Those that fail to meet the new standards, he said, will
be given 90 days to upgrade or face the possible consequence that
cargo and ships coming from or passing through those ports would
be denied entry at U.S. ports.
With the current threat of terrorism so high worldwide, Gonynor
said "we are now in a situation that makes operations challenging,
interesting and expensive." The new security environment and
regulations have thus changed the new international shipping environment
forever, he said.
Fellow panelist Russell Whitmarsh, who directs security for the
Port of Houston, reinforced that point, describing the implementation
of the new maritime laws as a "tough job" both for the
shipping lines and for the ports their ships visit.
Ports like Houston, he said, which is a 53-mile (85 kilometer)
channel that ranks as the world's sixth largest port, were originally
designed (often many years ago) for the movement of cargo and to
facilitate the free flow of commerce and so were designed with
little or no impediments to deter that process.
Prior to September 11, Whitmarsh said, port authorities were concerned
with "petty theft, accidents and safety issues."
Now besides general security, he said, port officials must also
deal with credentialing systems, installing perimeter fencing and
barriers in places where it never existed before, installing gate
systems, access controls, and enhancing communications, surveillance
and intelligence gathering. "All of this," he said, "will
have a tremendous impact" on international shipping lines
and the ports in which they operate.
A third workshop speaker, Jesse W. Lewis Jr., a senior consultant
on maritime security with Kroll agreed that maritime security is "with
us to stay" and must be accepted as factor of in the everyday
life of the ports and shipping industry. The September 11 terrorist
attack on the United States, he said, "destroyed any illusion
that we are safe in a world in which there are people who want
to attack human life and property."
For that reason, he said, "It is very important for shipping
companies to forge a very close relationship with intelligence
and law enforcement agencies," to protect their vessels and
operations. That is "absolutely fundamental" he said, "for
without them, you just cannot exist."