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How secure are the ports, really...

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posted on Sep, 12 2005 @ 08:56 PM
This past weekend, I was talking with a friend of mine who is with the local Coast Guard detachment in charge of inspecting cargo coming into the Port of Baltimore. Given that a port-based attack has been one of my greatest fears while living in this city (considering that I live less than a mile from one of the Port of Baltimore main shipping terminals), I decided to ask her for a bit of information regarding security there. It's a lot more lax than you may think.

I've always felt that port security was pretty loose, just given the amount of cargo that enters a major port such as the Port of Baltimore, but what she told me really bothered me. She said that they try to inspect at least 5 ships a week, but it's more often like 2 or 3 ships a week. Given that roughly 30 ships a week enter just one (of five) Port of Baltimore shipping terminals in a given week, this number was far lower than I expected. The inspections that she does are onboard, physical inspections of every container on a ship, so it is pretty thorough, but it's still only about 1% of the ships that enter the Port of Baltimore. In addition to random onboard inspections, there is also radiation scans that take place on about 1 out of over 10 vessels that enter the port. Okay, but what about ship's manifiest inspections. Still not that high a ratio. Given that one ship's manifest is often 800-1000 pages, and takes almost a day for a single person to inspect, only about 15-30% of the ship's manifiests are inspected in any given week.

Given this, if someone was to actually bring some sort of illegal weapon into the US through a major port, there's a 50-70% chance of them getting whatever it is into the country without incident. I put the lower end of the range at 50%, because she said that there is other security equipment in use that she is not allowed to speak of for security reasons. Given that she is a good friend of mine, I didn't pry anymore after that.

All told, however, this is a pretty scary fact. Given the lax security (there's stimply not enough personell to increase this number, either), I'm rather surprised that someone hasn't tried something yet. Granted, much of the imported narcotics coming into the nation are smuggled through the major ports, but as yet, there's been no known weapon smuggled in successfully through a port, and used on US soil.

I hope the randomness of the inspections is the reason for this, and that it doesn't come to an attack on US soil at a major port.

If nothing else, this certainly gives people something to think about.

On the other hand, in an amusing side note, I later jokingly mentioned commandeering the Constellation (a Civil War era sailing battleship) and going on a life of piracy. She told me that the idea was highly likely to be thwarted, because there's at least 15 seperate Coast Guard patrol points that I would have to pass through before getting to the Atlantic, and given that she only has a jib sail in place, and next to no rudder control, it'd be a VERY slow trip (at the most, 1-2 knots, and only then with a good tailwind). Not that I'd ever do something like that, but the topic came up in jest at the local Renaissance Festival after watching a pirate sea shanty show.

[edit on 12-9-2005 by obsidian468]

posted on Sep, 15 2005 @ 09:08 PM
With all the recent talk on FEMA's shortcomings, and the shortcomings of the Federal government in general, I'm suprised that nobody has answered this. Granted, the account I gave, while it is based on the firsthand account of a friend, has no news links to back it up, I'm sure that there's people on here that have seen articles, experienced, or even done the same work, and understand what is happening here. In the least, I would think that this account would pique the interest of conspiracy theorists or those concerned about national security.

So, anybody have any thoughts?

posted on Sep, 15 2005 @ 09:33 PM
I've certainly heard TV reports (such as Lou Dobbs on CNN) showing that security is lax in our ports. And that we don't have the money or manpower to up our security significantly.

However, I don't know what the answers are. If we were to physically search each container, our ports would be bogged down with goods, food, etc. waiting for inspection.

posted on Sep, 15 2005 @ 10:47 PM
So, little or no port security, leaky borders with Mexico and Canada, airport security that seldom gets a good rateing anywhere. FEMA is the laughing stock of all govt. agencys.

Where is all the tax money going for the Office of Homeland Security; websites and fancy administrative salarys?

Maybe it's just me but I don't feel very safe at all.

posted on Sep, 16 2005 @ 01:40 AM
I've heard much the same thing from members of the Coast Guard here in California, as well. Many is the time since 9/11 that I've driven past the port in Oakland and wondered "What if...?"

What reall frightens me, and I've posted this elsewhere, is the possibility of a terrorist nuke being delivered to a US port city not hidden in an overlooked cargo container, but sealed in a water-tight container welded to the keel of a container ship.

If just shipped in a container, a device has at least a chance of being detected, small though that chance might be. Secreted into a city like a deadly limpet mine, a nuke would likely escape even a thorough ship-board search; the ship's hull, bilge, fuel, and the the sea itself would serve to block any errant radiation leakage from land and airborne detectors.

posted on Sep, 16 2005 @ 03:53 AM
Some very bad security. I just watched a program about Hong Kong, and it showed the massive shipping yards. What do they do? They take the containers straight from the ship and put them onto trucks if the trucks are avaible, no searching I could see...

Maybe they could save the money that NASA are going to use to put more people on the Moon [HERE] and use to to tighten up port security.

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