Guarding Against the Unthinkable

More than a decade has passed since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but the question remains: How best can the world’s cruise lines and ports guard against the threat of terrorism to their ships? A multilayered approach to security that uses both manpow

Published Feb 15, 2013 4:16 PM by Katy A. Smith

If someone is trying to enter the port who doesn’t belong, we don’t want to wait until they reach the door of the cruise terminal to find that out," says Glenn Wiltshire, Deputy Port Director for Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) in Florida. "We believe our layered approach provides that early warning and reduces the potential of something actually happening."

After 9/11, the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) was put in place by the IMO, providing guidance on port security to each of its 170-plus signatory nations. Those nations also have their own port security regulations that cruise lines must follow. 

In the U.S., for example, Congress in 2010 passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, the most comprehensive set of laws ever enacted to protect cruise ship passengers. The Cruise Lines International Association, the trade group that represents the global cruise industry, believes so strongly in the law’s crime-reporting provisions that it is working with the IMO to have them adopted globally, according to Stan Deno, Director of Technical & Regulatory Affairs. While all global ports adhere to the ISPS code, in the U.S. the code is mandated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 and enforced by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).

Different Strokes
“On the international level, based on the intel and conditions for a specific port, it will maintain Security Level 1, 2 or 3,” explains Jason M. Yets, Marine Inspector/Instructor for the USCG’s Cruise Ship National Center of Expertise. “In the U.S., ports will take action under Maritime Security (MARSEC) Levels 1, 2 or 3. For example, if a U.S. port receives intel specific to a ship or the port itself, and depending on the circumstances, the Coast Guard can mandate them to go to the next highest security level. If a ship is outside the U.S., it is subject to the security level of that flag state. If a ship is required by its flag state to set, or is already at, a higher security level than that of the port it intends to enter or where it is already located, it must notify the appropriate authorities.” 

Every port also employs a number of security measures corresponding to its geographical make-up and cruise line activities. The Port of Los Angeles typically sees between 80 and 100 cruise calls a year, and as Ronald J. Boyd, Chief of the Los Angeles Port Police, reports, “Our security programs are scalable, whether we have 90 vessel calls or 300. We’re geared toward having enough support for every passenger, crewmember and support person that comes into the port.”

The port has trained officers who operate in a Sea Marshal program, similar to the airlines’ Air Marshal program, that deals with everything from theft and domestic disputes to terrorism and active shooter encounters. Like other U.S. ports, it also partners with numerous state and local law enforcement agencies, Customs & Border Protection, and the Department of Homeland Security. The port has an aggressive K-9 program that assists with baggage and provisions inspections. And, like other global ports, Los Angeles uses so-called “SmartCAM” technology with built-in video analytics that assist camera operators by sounding alarms if unauthorized personnel attempt to enter a restricted area. Additionally, it has a dive team that carries out sweeps below the waterline when cruise ships are in the security zone.  

Boyd is also President of the International Association of Airport and Seaport Police, an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) that shares best practices among the largest global airports and seaports. “We are the first and only NGO that is strictly law enforcement to have a seat at the IMO,” says Boyd. “We put politics, terrain, geography, and agency make-up aside so we can get right to dealing with the issues.” He says information-sharing for the public through a variety of means like social media has been a rising trend. “The world has been talking, especially since 9/11, about first responders. And now we’re going into a new era where we’re referring to the ‘first affected,’ which is the general public,” he notes.

Best Practices
On any given weekend, Port Everglades’ nine cruise terminals can see up to 11 different cruise lines and 42 different ships. The private security companies that serve cruise lines at the port are franchised by Port Everglades, and as part of that franchising the port reviews their training programs and licensing. Within the terminal there is a sworn law enforcement presence that was originally put in place prior to 9/11 as part of Florida’s state security standards. In 2011 the state law was revoked, but the port retained the provision as standard practice as it made sense from a risk-management standpoint. “Once the passenger is in the cruise terminal, then it’s the hand-off from the terminal to ship security as the individual boards the ship,” says Wiltshire. 

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s (RCCL) ships are staffed with security teams that are part of the ship’s permanent crew. “We recruit our onboard security professionals from around the world and give special hiring priority to candidates with backgrounds in the military, law enforcement or private security sectors,” says Eidan Segev, Director of Security Planning, Policy & Situation Management. “We strive to match the cultural and language skills of our security staff to the guest demographics and itineraries where they will work.”

RCCL uses a variety of security measures onboard that include its SeaPass system, an automated security screening technology that is linked to other onboard systems and produces an electronic identity and tracking card for each guest or crew member. It also employs closed circuit television and maintains a detailed log of incident information. The company’s security team participates in a series of certification training courses and takes refresher courses with each new contract. 

According to Michael Homer, retired Patrol Supervisor at the Cape Canaveral Precinct in Florida and owner of MATE (Maritime Anti-Terrorism and Explosives Training Company), security training at Port Canaveral requires all employees, whether security or non-security, to attend an eight-hour maritime domain awareness course, with people who have security duties doing a second eight hours. MATE provides training for a number of home-ported cruise lines including Disney, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. The training includes behavior detection, threat recognition and identification, explosives and improvised explosive device (IED) awareness, and active shooter practice. 

“Even though there are typically one or two full-time security officers onboard ships, all the bridge officers and even top engineers will receive basic if not advanced security training,” says Homer. He believes training and hiring standards have gotten better as well as the equipment: “Prior to 9/11, the magnetometer and X-ray machines were 20 to 30 feet from the entrance to the ship. Now they’re almost all just inside the cruise terminal entrance.”

Better Protocols
Security training and technology systems should always be monitored, advises Kate Bennett, a former contract operations manager for security at the Port of Auckland and more recently at the 2012 London Olympics. “I believe there should be stricter protocols in place to avoid technological and human error,” she notes. In New Zealand, the country is still figuring out how to regulate the security industry. There are currently no prerequisites to begin working in the field. 

SMARTBLUE, a new Command and Control (C2) maritime awareness solution for the maritime and oil & gas industries, was launched five months ago by German navigation manufacturer Raytheon Anschütz. The system provides security and protection through the integration of a variety of surveillance sensors. “With an easy-to-operate graphic user interface, the sensors, which can include radar, Automated Identification System (AIS), Electric Optical Sensor Systems (EOSS) and underwater detection systems, can be easily set up to detect, identify and contact targets entering an exclusion or restricted zone,” says James Norwood, Business Development Manager at the company’s Portsmouth, UK office.

In a cruise ship scenario, SMARTBLUE can be integrated into the vessel’s bridge navigation system where it would detect incoming contacts like a standard radar system but then allow the bridge team to quickly identify them through an automatic pan-and-zoom with the integrated camera system. “Bridge teams on commercial vessels are small in number nowadays so SMARTBLUE, once programmed, is fully automatic,” says Norwood.

Staying Alert
So far the multilayered approach to security has worked. However, warns MATE’s Homer, vigilance is a never-ending process: “It's not just the cruise industry, but airport and law enforcement personnel are prone to it as well: Every day we get further and further away from September 11 is one more day that everybody kind of lets their guard down a little more and drifts back toward complacency.”

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.