There’s No Room for Complacency in Port Security

 Author(s): , Posted on October 30th, 2011

Sea ports that have a reputation for safe, secure and efficient ports can’t afford to be complacent about balancing efficiency and security.

Australia and New Zealand are classic examples.  In the Unisys Security Index conducted in April, one in three Australians and even less New Zealanders said that they perceive freight sent by air, sea or land to be vulnerable to malicious or terrorist attack. The level of concern “down under” is some of the lowest recorded globally compared to more than half of the US and two thirds of the UK public.

 

Source: Unisys Security Index, April 2011 – percentage of public responding that cargo transported by air, sea or land is “extremely” or “very” vulnerable to malicious or terrorist attack

Sure – public perception may not match the reality, but you would not want this apparent low level of concern regarding maritime trade security to be reflected in our national priorities.  Given that 90 percent of the world’s cargo moves by sea, and with both the Aussie and Kiwi economies being highly dependent on safe and efficient maritime trade, ports present a high value target for those wishing to do our nations harm.  It is important that commercial and policy decision makers are not lulled into a false sense of security.

So why does the public hold such a low level of concern? Perhaps it is because relatively few of us directly interact with seaports and so have no immediate experience on which to base an assessment. Or maybe we simply don’t believe that a serious port security incident could happen here. However, the ten year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the more recent attacks in Mumbai (which were facilitated by insufficient security measures at Indian ports and insufficient maritime domain awareness) serve as stark reminders that it can indeed happen on our home turf.

There is no silver bullet answer. Today’s port security landscape is characterised by increasingly sophisticated threats, new vulnerabilities, evolving national and international regulations and mandates, a broad range of stakeholders. There is also a plethora of security solution providers jockeying for attention and a piece of the port operations budget. This information overload often leads to a ‘comply first – ask questions later’ approach comprised of single point (silo) security solutions that resist integration with basic port operations, devour scarce operational resources, potentially alienate key stakeholders, do not account for future growth requirements and may not even address the most important security challenges.

These types of issues can be avoided by developing a comprehensive security roadmap or master plan that aligns business and security strategies and provides a prioritised and actionable plan to address not only the current requirements, but take into account future growth and plans. This approach allows ports to look at their business and make decisions on where they need to make investments to not only address the high priority issues, but also where they can get the largest return on security investments and payback by way of security fees and tariff adjustments.

Find out more about the Unisys Port Security Roadmap for Asia Pacific here.

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About the Author

John Kendall is the Director of the Border and National Security Program for the global public sector practice at Unisys. Based in Canberra Australia, John has overall responsibility for Unisys border and national security initiatives around the globe. Read all Posts





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