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]