CARRIERS WANT ôUNIFIED, COORDINATED STRATEGYö FOR U.S. SECURITY RULES
The world’s liner carriers want to do their part in the war against terrorism, but they don’t want the industry to be crippled by a lack of unified and coordinated U.S. maritime security rules.
“The immediate challenges are to design the security process and deploy the capabilities necessary to minimize, detect and intercept security risks as early as possible — before they are loaded aboard a ship for delivery to their destination, and to have the systems and international protocols in place to ensure the efficient flow of international commerce during all possible security conditions,” said Christopher Koch, president and chief executive officer of the World Shipping Council.
Koch made his comments on liner shipping and security during a seaport security field hearing, organized by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, on Tuesday in Charleston, S.C.
“What is needed is for the government to clearly identify the new security requirements, and for the industry to work cooperatively and quickly with the government to determine the best, most efficient way to meet them,” Koch said.
U.S. government officials have indicated that if terrorists use ocean containers to launch their attacks, container shipping could come to a halt in the country’s ports.
“The government must have a strategy and the capability to ensure that trade continues to flow, even if there is an incident,” Koch said. “The alternative would create an even greater incentive for terrorists to target the transportation industry, because the consequences would be so destructive.”
More than 800 containerships and roll-on/roll-off vessels make about 22,000 calls to U.S. ports each year. In 2001, these carriers moved more than 4.8 million containers of U.S. exports and 7.8 million containers of imports. The Washington-based World Shipping Council’s 30 carrier members transported more than 90 percent of these volumes.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the World Shipping Council set up a security advisory committee to consider how the liner industry could help the government to improve security without impeding the flow of commerce. On Jan. 17, the council filed a white paper to the Transportation Department, Customs, and the Senate Commerce Committee.
“Designing and implementing an effective maritime security program will require cooperation, information sharing and coordination between government and industry,” Koch said.
The World Shipping Council’s recommendations call for:
* A “unified, coordinated strategy” between government and industry.
* “Clear, mandatory rules,” which specifically state what information must be filed and when by each party in the transportation supply chain.
* Security rules that still allow for the efficient flow of trade.
* International cooperation to enhance security globally.
Koch believes that security begins with the shippers and non-vessel-operating common carriers which load the containers.
“The shipper who stuffs the container knows what was put in the box,” Koch said. “What is needed — and this is admittedly easier to state than to implement — is a system that obtains the needed data, from the appropriate parties, at times sufficiently in advance of loading as to allow for effective security prescreening.”
“It is not feasible or necessary to physically inspect every container entering or leaving a port,” he added. “It is necessary, however, for the government to have the capability to inspect those containers that it identifies as deserving further attention, whether that be on the basis of random selection or specific information.”
The council supports the proposed legal requirement that shippers and NVOs use a standard seal for their containers originating or destined to the United States after loading, and record seal numbers on all shipping documents. It also endorses close monitoring of container seals through to destination and procedures for handling containers with broken seals.
The World Shipping Council is also monitoring the development of other maritime-related security measures for ships, marine terminals, and personnel.
The Senate unanimously passed its version of the Port and Maritime Security Act (S.1214) before recess in December. Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, D-S.C., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, was the leading sponsor of the legislation. The House is expected to begin hearings on its version of the legislation soon.
Koch vowed continued involvement by the World Shipping Council in the development of the country’s future maritime security rules, and praised the Coast Guard and Customs for “a magnificent job” in response to maritime security since Sept. 11.
“The challenge is to build on those efforts and create a more complete and permanent set of security procedures and systems that can better ensure the safety of America’s foreign trade,” Koch said. “The members of the World Shipping Council are ready and willing to help.”