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    Rand Corp. Study Urges Attention To Protecting Cruise Ships, Ferry Boats From Terrorism

    (October 17, 2006) -- The Rand Corporation has publicly released a study which contends that cruise ships and ferry boats deserve greater attention in addressing maritime terrorist risks.

    "Attacks on cruise ships and ferry boats would meet the interrelated requirements of visibility, destruction and disruption that drive transnational terrorism in the contemporary era,: said Peter Chalk, one of the report's co-authors. "Recognizing this is essential to any comprehensive regime of maritime security."

    In a release, the Rand Corporation report argues against basing maritime counterterrorism efforts only on increasing port security and the security of cargo container ships, rail cars and trucks. "Focusing solely on securing the container supply chain without defending other parts of the maritime environment is like bolting down the front door of a house and leaving the back door wide open," said Henry Willis, a RAND researcher and a co-author of the report.

    Although the largest maritime disaster would involve the detonation of a nuclear device smuggled through a major domestic port inside a shipping container, the report concludes that the likelihood of such an event occurring is far lower than for other types of attacks and concludes that an attack on passenger ferries or cruise ships would be more probable. Such attacks might involve on-board bombs or biological contaminants inserted into the food supply, according to researchers.

    The Rand study contends:

    • Reducing the risk of an atomic device being smuggled into a U.S. port is a priority, though increasing attention to the control of nuclear weapons and materials may be more important than inspecting containers. Policies must balance the need for reducing the risk with the need to keep shipping open.

    • There is no observable evidence that terrorists and piracy syndicates are collaborating to attack maritime targets. In fact, their motivations and overall objectives are frequently in conflict.

    • The potential economic impact of a maritime terrorism incident could be reduced by improving procedures to reopen ports and restore container shipping systems that might be shut down following a terrorist attack or natural disaster.

    • There is little prospect of terrorists successfully blocking a shipping lane by sinking a ship. Such an attack would not achieve terrorists' desire for maximum public attention through inflicted loss of life, and modern hull design makes it difficult to sink a ship. In addition, if an obstruction were created in a critical shipping channel it could be cleared quickly.

    • Because cruise liners and ferries must allow passengers to move freely, security improvements should focus on developing more stringent and effective means for screening passengers, crew and luggage.

    • Negligence liability for maritime terrorist attacks creates a likelihood that firms will be held financially responsible for harm to victims. But ambiguity regarding whether specific attacks are foreseeable, and regarding the steps required to prevent attacks, may undermine the effectiveness of the justice system in setting meaningful incentives for the private sector.

    In a web posting predating the Rand study, the International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL) says the "cruise industry's highest priority is to ensure the safety and security of its passengers, crew and vessels. It continues:

    A cruise ship is inherently secure because it is a controlled environment with limited access. In order to maintain this secure environment, cruise lines have established strict ship security procedures that are, in part, outlined in internationally agreed-upon measures set forth by the International Maritime Organization (IMO)...

    Heightened security measures are standard for cruise ships today and include passenger screening procedures similar to those found at U.S. airports including the use of metal detectors. Security procedures include the 100 percent inspection of all passengers, their carry-on baggage and luggage. Each crewmember holds a U.S. seafarers visa and has thus undergone a U.S. State Department background check prior to visa issuance. In addition, all crewmembers and guests are placed on an official manifest and may embark and disembark only after passing through a security checkpoint. Once a ship is underway, only documented employees and fare-paying passengers are on board. Cruise lines employ security experts and advisors and train onboard personnel in security procedures. Many additional security techniques are routinely utilized by both port and cruise line security but remain invisible to the passengers' eye.

    The Rand report, titled Maritime and Terrorism: Risk and Liability, was produced by the RAND Center for Terrorism Risk Management Policy.

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