Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Ports are wide open actually... 

The immense row in the USA over the sale of several major ports to a Dubai management company raises several issues. Opponents of the President see it as a free gift in a continuing political fight. In Libdem Blogger links Colin Ross see it as a somewhat racist reaction as this report (subscription required for full text) from Rupert Cornwell in the Independent on Sunday also suggests.

Actually Ports Ownership is the least of the security worries. And it extends to European ports as well. Cornwell’s re-assuring note says that (for example) the US Coastguards have the right to intercept ships way out at sea to check them over. But this is a real needle in a haystack facility.

This was one of the themes discussed in the book on marine piracy I mentioned in an earlier post. By William Langewiesche "The Outlaw Sea: Chaos and Crime on the World's Oceans”.

The actual practice of the law of the sea means that ships get renamed, change identity, get new crews, turn up unexpectedly in port with unknown cargos. Literally ships pop up over the horizon many times a day making for major ports and nobody can be quite sure they are who they say they are. It is impossible to screen them all out at sea. If a terrorist group wanted to set of a ship-borne bomb it could very easily deliver this virtually anywhere, the ports ownership being what it may. London, Liverpool, Rotterdam… all vulnerable at this minute. Maybe we in Europe should look at this US uproar and make some better decisions on our own security…

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