TECHNOLOGY ENDORSED TO KEEP TERRORISTS OUT OF SEAPORTS
Security specialists believe the best way to hinder terrorist activities in U.S. seaports is to require significantly increased use of information and inspectional technologies for containerized cargo.
“There’s a lot of technology out there,” said Ralph Sheridan, president and chief executive officer for American Science and Engineering Inc., at a press conference in Washington Friday. “The only thing holding it back from being deployed is imagination.”
AS&E, which is one of the country’s largest manufacturers of cargo and human inspection equipment for airports, carriers and law enforcement agencies, acknowledged that the equipment is expensive. Mobile X-ray units cost about $2 million each and stationary units cost upwards of $7 million. They also take months to build.
Security specialists are considering ways to use combinations of information and inspectional technologies to efficiently scan containers without disrupting the flow of legitimate cargo.
' The government would not be able to clamp down on the seaport sector as it did with airports because of the havoc it would cause to the nation’s economy, said Carl Bentzel, senior counsel to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
' Seaport security legislation pending in Congress would require shipment information filed to law enforcement agencies in advance of arriving in U.S. ports, in addition to more cargo exams through X-ray equipment.
Stephen Flynn, Coast Guard commander and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the seaport security legislation is a “good start,” but security must start at the cargo’s origin.
“We’re talking about risk management which starts at the point of origin,” Flynn said. “No more mystery boxes” arriving at U.S. ports.
For now, security specialists fear that seaports remain wide open targets, as well as a conduit, to terrorist attacks.
“Ports are a haven for criminal activity, and where you have uncontrolled criminal activity, you have easy access for terrorists,” Sheridan said.