November 2001 | Commentary | Checking In

Ports Play Role in Homeland Defense

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Rizak Amid Farid was arrested in Italy on Oct. 18 after police found him hiding in a container bound for Canada. The container was equipped with a satellite phone, two cell phones, a laptop, a bed, a bathroom, and enough food for an extended trip. Farid carried falsified passports, and documents identifying him as an aircraft mechanic. With the tightening of immigration, terror networks are using seaports to get operatives into the United States.

"The U.S. government must realize that the leading-edge boundary for homeland defense is, in fact, foreign ports," says The Maritime Security Council's Kim Petersen. His assessment of current practices, given in testimony before the U.S. Senate late in October, was not good. "It is nothing less than frightening to see how little security there is in some foreign ports that see ships depart and sail directly into Miami or New York," he said.

Once the shipments arrive in North America, "demands will be placed on all of us but especially on our nation's port community, as we embark on a global campaign against terrorism," Raymond Barberesi, director, Office of Ports and Domestic Shipping, U.S. Department of Transportation, told the American Association of Port Authorities convention in early October. "It will never be business as usual."

In the U.S. Congress, the proposed Hollings-Graham legislation would help cities meet the cost of tightening security at ports, and give the U.S. Coast Guard regulatory control over ports. "Some people in Congress don't have any idea it's a problem," says Senator Fritz Hollings, chairman of the Commerce Committee.

The AAPA has opposed the "one size fits all ports" approach to the bill. "Ports are vital to our national security and national defense," Kurt Nagle, AAPA president, told Inbound Logistics (see story page 52). But the ports are also primary conduits of the commerce that keeps our economy moving. This tension dictates that ports can never completely keep us impervious to attack.

There is much more our government and we in our industry can do as participants in homeland defense. We should do more. We will do more. But we should recognize that the destruction of those with the evil intent to use our ports as conduits of fear and destruction is our most effective defense.

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