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Author Topic: Kerry, shipping containers and cargo holds  (Read 9312 times)
London Man
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« on: October 14, 2004, 03:19:36 am »
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How many containers enter the US per day?
How exactly do you x-ray a hold?
Isn't increasing searches going to make life even more inconvenient?
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MODU
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« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2004, 03:27:31 pm »
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I wrote a decent write-up on port security a while ago.  I'll search for it tonight and try to update the information.  There is a big misconception in the way Kerry refers to port security, and I feel it deserves a clear answer.  Give me a few hours to get home and look it up.

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Pictor Ignotus
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« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2004, 03:56:51 pm »
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How many containers enter the US per day?
How exactly do you x-ray a hold?
Isn't increasing searches going to make life even more inconvenient?

A "nuisance?"

Yes, but better a nuisance than a tragedy. And checking packages doesn't take people's rights away does it? Can we not wait a day or two more for our packages?

Maybe we don't need 100% checked, but 5% checked seems like a gaping hole of risk.
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MODU
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« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2004, 09:32:29 pm »
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Ugh. The new upgrade took away the option to see ALL of your posts on one screen. Can we get that option back?

Ok, back to port security.

1: TIME - This is the biggest issue concerning inspecting cargo (especially shipping containers). As a business society, we are now an economy which relies on just-in-time delivery, a business concept which has developed mostly over the past two decades. What this means is that companies order just enough supplies to meet their demands/needs, relying on timely replacement of supplies to meet their needs. So if we were to switch to even 50% hands-on inspections of just containers, we are adding a minimum of 2 day delays into the just-in-time process, forcing companies to either scale back their service timelines or order more items in order to meet the increased supply needs by the additional days.

2: COSTS - One way to bypass this interruption is to higher more inspectors. These additional inspectors increase the costs occurred due to transportation (just as oil increases transportation costs). This leads to the additional expenses being passed through the system down the end customer, being the general public. And when I say higher additional people, going back to inspecting just 50% of the containers, this will be increasing the number of inspectors by 10 fold. So this is a sizable cost. (More on this is a moment.)


3: SECURITY - People (politicians/media) talk about port security in the concept that a terrorist will ship in WMDs and smuggle them into a city and detonate the weapon (similar in the movie "The Sum of All Fears"). They say that increasing container inspections will catch these WMDs before they hit the city. That might be true, but a smart terrorist would not need to have the weapon hit the city in order to cripple our society. By detonating a WMD with in a deep-sea port, you will impair the nations ability to import the goods we need to keep our economy afloat as well as the necessary supplies we require to for key aspects of our lives. It will take months of repairs at a port facility to get back up to operation. A coordinated attack at multiple ports would do more damage to the US than 9/11. So increasing inspections when the cargo reaches the US does not necessarily increase our security.

4: WHAT ARE WE DOING - In order to meet these issues, our security starts overseas where the containers are picked up and placed on the ship. The US has a list of every port which our cargo comes from, and before they are loaded on a ship heading to the US, the container manifests have to indicate that they have received a security inspection. Now while we can count on most foreign ports to be honest and thorough in their inspections, some ports are naturally high-risk. The containers from these ports are the ones which are inspected. Additionally, any container that is carrying hazardous material is also inspected once it reaches US ports.

Now I haven't gone into the physical security performed at US ports by the US Coast Guard and by private firms, since that is not the issue which Kerry has brought up during the debates. But an attack in domestic waters similar to that on the USS Cole in 2000 is unlikely, especially given the upgrades provided in the various homeland security acts and funding.

So are only 5% of our containers being inspected? Yeah, sounds about right. Do we need to increase the percentage of inspections? It wouldn't hurt, but it is not necessary. By tracking cargo shipments and inspecting high-risk containers, we save time in cargo turn-around which decreases the expenses on our businesses and consumers as well as passing the expenses on the host nations where the goods are coming from. When Kerry, politicians, and the media mentions this issue, keep in mind that they are not giving you the whole truth on the issue, and things are far from as bad as they try to make it out to be.

Personal background on this topic:

I've sailed on 5 different commercial ships before coming shore side (pictures and website links added if available):

- Container ship (Sea-Land - before being merged with Maersk)
- tanker (OMI Corp)
- Break-bulk Ship (Lykes Brothers Lines - before being acquired by CP Ships)
- LASH or Lighter Abroad SHip (Waterman Steamship)
- tanker (American Heavylift Not too sure what happened to them)

I'll update this post as I continue to proof-read it. Also, I'll add more to the listing as I find more images/websites.

My brother continues to sail tankers off the West Coast.

-------
Update 1:

Searching online for photo's, I've come across an article regarding one of my ships, and ome interesting stories that occurred involving the ship and one of the guys I've sailed with.

Green Island C9-S-81d - technical information
"Heroism on the high seas" - Charles "Charlie" Brown was the 1st Asst. Engineer when I sailed with him
Image of ships damage - Note the size of the hole.
"MTMC delivers military equipment to Jordan" - Back in service

-------
Update 2:

Sorry, Silent Hunter, I forgot to answer one of your questions last night.

5:  X-RAYING CONTAINERS - This is actually a fairly simple process which is done on the US borders for a few years now.  This of it as when you go to the gas station to get some gas, and you decide to get a car wash while you are at it.  The container is off-loaded from the ship and placed on a road-ready rig.  Then, the rig drives over to the X-ray booth and pulls in (like you would do at the car wash).  When the signal is given to stop, the booth activates an X-ray system that examines the contents of the container, looking for possible people or explosives.  The X-ray equipment can scan at multiple frequencies, so it is able to search for specific items that are resistant to the X-rays coming out of the machinery. 

Another set-up, which was in use at Sea-Lands Alpha Terminal in Europe (not sure if it still is or not since they were having problems with all the automation), involves a cherry picker that rolls over the container that has been off-loaded from the ship.  The cherry picker carries the container over to an inspection building, where it is placed on an automated track and pulled through the building.  Within the building are various sensors and X-rays that examine the containers.  The Alpha Terminal was a radical concept back in the early 90s, with almost the whole facility being computer automated.  With the backlash of 9/11 and the need for increased security, it may not be operating in that capacity any more.  (I will see if I can find more information on it).

However, X-raying will never beat hands-on examination, which we must rely on with the foreign ports when they are packing and sealing the containers.  Once an item makes it into a US port, the terrorist has already achieved their goal.

I will do some research on the daily container activity for you as well.  I think MARAD use to track those figures. 
« Last Edit: October 15, 2004, 12:12:00 pm by MODU »Logged

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« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2004, 12:13:26 pm »
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Update 2 posted.
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« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2004, 12:41:17 pm »
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So it sounds like upgraded Security could be used as a back-door protectionism for American industry that would probably be able to evade the WTO.  Granted, that unlike tariffs, it wouldn't raise money for the Treasury, but it also wouldn't cost money like our subsidies do either.
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« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2004, 12:58:49 pm »
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So it sounds like upgraded Security could be used as a back-door protectionism for American industry that would probably be able to evade the WTO. Granted, that unlike tariffs, it wouldn't raise money for the Treasury, but it also wouldn't cost money like our subsidies do either.

Similar to say the 9/11 fee you pay on airfare these days for the increased security at the airports?
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J. J.
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« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2006, 03:01:39 pm »
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Okay, I have got to admit it; this is one of the best threads I've read.
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« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2006, 03:21:18 pm »
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Okay, I have got to admit it; this is one of the best threads I've read.

Ditto.

Great post, MODU. I truly learned a lot about a subject I wasn't very familiar with.
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MODU
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« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2006, 09:40:16 am »
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Everyone has a unique set of knowledge.  Just like Muon with his statistical analysis, Vorlon with his polling, etc...

Anyone other questions on the maritime industry, just ask away, however I'm finding that I too am growing more and more out of the loop these days.  hehehe
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