The Piracy Business or Singapore Burning?
Author: Simon Stander
Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on: 11/04/2003
“Seacurity” has become a matter of interest, not only because of the risk of a terrorist “maritime spectacular” taking out a major seaport with considerable loss of life but also because of the opportunity it offers for massively increasing business in the security industry. In this context two recent Reports are worth mentioning.
Last month the RAND Europe published a report entitled Seacurity: Improving the Security of the Global Sea-Container Shipping System (http://www.rand.org/publications/MR/MR1695). Copies can be downloaded free of charge or they will send copies out for $20. The fifteen page Report has eighteen recommendations. It reads in a very balanced way and explains how potentially easily a container may be used as a bomb because the international shipping system at sea is, in the words of the authors, leaky. It even gives the URL where it is possible to find ways of breaking into sea containers without leaving a trace in less than two minutes.
There is money to be had by private business if international shippers can be persuaded of the dangers to its 15 million containers that experience 250 million movements per year. Moreover, while shipping is in private hands, security is the responsibility of individual nation states. This allows huge gaps to be exploited by terrorists especially because the private sector appears, according to this Report, “to lack awareness of the dangers”. The Report calls for more enforced discipline among the private sector shippers. What is more, as the report states, “the container securing business has the potential of being a very high value and therefore lucrative one”. As a parallel the Report reminds us that every airline passenger pays $20 to cover the cost of his or her being searched and checked while traveling through the world’s airports. However, the mostly privately owned sea-port authorities round the world are largely unwilling to impose time-consuming and expensive search restrictions on containers for fear of losing business to competitors. Ironically, therefore, the Report calls for strengthening of security through the intervention of national authorities and through stronger international governance as the private sector cannot look after itself without some form of state intervention. This further reinforces problems associated with the lack of international governance, and provides a gap that could be exploited by international terrorists if they found a way of doing it. Currently the major international organization, which has no powers, is the UN International Maritime Organization (www.imo.org) which has 162 member states affiliated to it. Other organizations that offer monitoring services, advice and lobbying include the International Chamber of Commerce Commercial Crime Service, which offers a weekly piracy report (www.iccwbo.org/ccs/menu_imb_piracy.asp) and the US Maritime Security Council www.maritimesecurity.org
At the beginning of October Aegis Defence Services (www.aegisdef.com) published their 140-page Terrorism Report. This organization, whose CEO is former Lt-Col Tim Spicer of Sandline[i] fame, lists the contents of his company’s Report on-line, but interested readers have to pay for it in full. Price? $5,800. No. It’s not a misprint. It is not clear who would pay that price…if it was that good, a terrorist group might. They might be the only group that could afford it.
However, whether the security industry makes good profits or not, a sane assessment of the real dangers of a “maritime spectacular” needs to be made and if necessary something done about it before Rotterdam or Singapore or some other major entrepot goes up in smoke and flames. Neither governments nor the private sector seem to be providing that sanity. Could academics do better? They do not seem to be trying too hard.
[i] Sandline International is a private military company (PMC)