Security: Planning is key to Prevention

Thursday, January 24, 2002
News travels around the world at the speed of light. A violent terrorist act at sea seen by millions could cause irreparable damage to the reputation of a major cruise line, if not the entire industry. Maritime Terrorism and piracy rose 40 percent last year, and by the end of the first quarter of 2000, the International Maritime Bureau reported 130 acts of piracy. The intensity of these attacks ranged from simple theft to attacks conducted with mortars, grenade launchers, and machine guns. Many countries lack the financial resources necessary to provide naval protection against piracy and terrorist acts at sea. Because of this lack of protection, the shipping industry must implement preventive measures and adequate training for crewmembers. Cruises in the Middle East have already been victimized by terrorism. The terrorist group "GAMA" attacked a cruise liner on the Nile, in Egypt. The attack was conducted to strike fear into western tourists and cause a reduction in western visitors and tourism dollars. The east and west coast of Africa are also laden with acts of piracy and the revolutionary conflicts throughout the region could lead to terrorist acts against other passenger ships to stop tourism.

The events of September 11, 2001 caused the shipping industry to take an even harder look at what can be done to prevent maritime terrorism but these acts have been increasing since before September 11. Cruise lines are suffering financially in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks. Further unrest in the Middle East will further deter westerners from traveling abroad. All of these events indirectly affect the passenger vessel industry. Now imagine the fallout of an attack on a passenger vessel. A direct attack against a cruise liner would deeply cripple the industry, causing the line attacked harmful, if not lethal, financial damage. While insurance may cover the cost of a ship, there is no coverage to fix the lost image of safety and security.

The cruise industry is searching for ways to increase security and regain passengers. Passenger vessels face problems similar to those of the airline industry. Some of those problems include trying to provide a secure environment while trying not to inconvenience the passenger. Another problem is what to do in the event of a hostage situation and how to prevent such incidents in the first place. In the midst of all this uncertainty the most important problem is to entice people to travel the oceans again. The answer to all of these questions can be found by hiring the right advisors and trainers. Professionals who can develop training plans to teach cruise staff how to recognize potential surveillance and terrorist activity. Among the personnel to be trained should be first and foremost the personnel working the port. Personnel responsible for passenger assistance should be taught to recognize potential danger. Security staff should be trained to understand attack methods and targeting procedures. Crewmembers should be screened to ensure there are no ties or potential ties to terrorist organizations or other organized crime. The enemy within is far more dangerous than any other. A tip hotline should be established to allow employees to anonymously report potential problems. Security professionals should be used to follow up on any tips, professionals with an understanding of terrorist operations. Security and profits do not generally mix well, but with the proper training of staff and occasional expert advisory visits security can be cost effective. It is more advantageous to use existing staff members as the eyes and ears of the organization than to hire additional minimally trained security guards. A quality security program can also be used as a marketing tool in these times of uncertainty. In an era when passengers are reluctant to travel, advertising a quality security program could entice passengers to travel on vessels which provide a level of safety far superior to their competitors.

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