An Inside Job?

Speaking of stowaways, problems with these illegals are featured in the latest edition of Loss Prevention News, just published by the UK P&I Club. This newsletter reports that Koreans operating in the port of Busan helped Chinese nationals stow away on vessels bound for North America. In voyages from Fujian to Long Beach three stowaways were found hiding in one vessel and four on another vessel. As alleged in the January 15th incident in the Port of Los Angeles, there was no evidence that any crew members were involved or were aware of the presence of the stowaways. In another incident, four Chinese were allowed on board a vessel by two Koreans who claimed to represent the vessel’s owners.

Steve Hunt, Claims Executive, Thomas Miller P&I Ltd., said, “People still go to extraordinary lengths to hide themselves away on merchant vessels, despite the prospect of physical vigor and possible fatality. It is particularly unfortunate when criminals charge large sums for putting people into difficult and desperate situations … Lax procedures, supplemented by momentary inattention, is all it takes for a stowaway to slip aboard”. [And the right price, Steve should have added.]

Here’s a sensitive subject, but one that’s being discussed in subdued tones. Federal proposals for background checks on port workers contain too many loopholes, says a senator who argues that dockyards have been havens for organized crime. He said the proposals permit too many exclusions for workers at the container terminals, allowing them to avoid screening for criminal records. He notes that in airports virtually all employees have a security check, while in ports there is still no federally mandated screening. The proposed changes are alarming to at least one security manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He said it appears most checkers, crane operators, forklift drivers and flatbed drivers at his operation won’t be screened under current proposals. “You tell me,” he asked, “how 100 people moving boxes around in a congested, confined area cannot affect the security of our transportation system? Longshoremen and checkers can secretly put a container where it’s not supposed to be. They can put it somewhere where it can be opened at night to be opened or have something installed in it. Meanwhile a secretary with access to a computer room has to have a security clearance. The equation doesn’t work out. It just doesn’t work”

LA Councilwoman Janice Hahn said recently, “Currently, our ports are vulnerable. We are inspecting only 2% of the containers that enter our ports. And if anyone wanted to impact the global economy, they would target the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Just look at how the labor lock-out in 2002 affected us all. We were finally able to determine that closing our ports cost this nation $ 2 billion a day — and the effects rippled through the entire world”. Because of this Achilles’ heel, foreign elements smuggle goods and stowaways into the U.S. whenever the price is right, yet incredibly, DHS/CBP is convinced that for our well-being we must rely upon the vigilance of foreign elements. One of these days, sadly, a 6-inch x 6-foot bomb may very well get through because of the inability of security systems in U.S. ports to scan/inspect all incoming containers.

[Bear in mind that our patented system would have detected that bomb and saved millions of lives.]