San Diego, Puget Sound ports selected for DHS marine security program
The California Port of San Diego and Washington's Puget Sound have been selected by the federal government to participate in a $10 million pilot program aimed at detecting contraband, immigrants and nuclear or radiological weapons aboard small commercial and recreational boats.
The three-year Department of Homeland Security program, currently under way at the Puget Sound ports of Seattle and Tacoma, is set to start next year at the San Diego port.
Under the program, federal officials will work with and train local agencies such as the Harbor Police to identify vessels carrying contraband. DHS also plans to deploy sensors, such as portable radiation detectors, mobile sensors and fixed-position detectors to identify intrusions.
DHS is focusing this effort on small boats because it believes these types of vessels are most likely to be used by criminals to smuggle drugs, migrants and nuclear or radiological weapons into the country. There have been several notable uses of small boats by terrorist organizations, including the October 2000 suicide bombing of the U.S.S. Cole and the October 2002 suicide bombing of the oil tanker Limburg.
While no specific threat has been identified, DHS officials have repeatedly cited the West Coast as a potential terrorist target.
The Port of San Diego was selected for the pilot project due to a large military presence and the port's proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border.
If successful, DHS said the program could be expanded to other ports.