Ports of Entry: Fast In, Fast Out

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How quickly cargo of all types moves onshore.

Major U.S. ports, such as the Port of Oakland, are complex transportation systems that serve everything from recreational boats, to passenger ferries, to cruise ships, to giant cargo ships. Ultimately, they are designed to move materials quickly, off the water and into the interior of the nation. Their speed can represent a security risk.

Ships & Boats

1. Ferries.Ferries transverse many of the nation's leading harbors. The FBI earlier this summer issued a warning that terrorists might target ferryboats for attacks.

2. Small Boats. Personal watercraft could be used in a harbor as a kind of manned torpedo, as was the case in the attack on the USS Cole.

3. Ship Containers. Cargo containers may be the most worrisome threat. These metal boxes could be used to smuggle in everything from biological weapons to nuclear devices.

4. Docks. Coast Guard regulations stipulate that only certain craft, such as container ships, are allowed within 25 yards of many piers. But most ports have miles of waterfront and there's no way to secure every inch of a dock.

5. Fences. Port security experts say perimeter security could be compromised since usually nothing more than a fence stands between the shipyard and the public roadways.

Trucks & Trains

Ports serve rail lines and roadways. If a dangerous container makes it past Customs officials, it could be transported to virtually any part of the country within days.

This article was originally published on 2003-09-10
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