Port Security vs. Autonomy

Adm. Thad Allen, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard
Adm. Thad Allen, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard
TAMPA (2009-05-29) -

The waterfront presents a wide range of problems when trying to protect against terrorist attacks. Whether it's a suicide attack like the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen or a terrorist raid from the water like the Mumbai assault, securing harbors is a challenge.

That challenge was the topic of a conference held in Tampa this week.

Dirty bombs in shipping containers, volatile bulk chemicals like anhydrous ammonia, there's a long list of potential targets in ports and harbors like Tampa Bay.

But those aren't the biggest concern of the man in charge of maritime security, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen. He worries about the potentially big disasters that can be caused by small boats.

"If you look at some of the things that have occurred around the world that cause me concern, things like the Mumbai attacks, the attack on the Cole, piracy off the horn of Africa or more recently a semi-submersible bringing cocaine from South America," Allen said. "There's a common denominator across all of those and what it is unregulated small boats."

Allen classifies a small boat as any vessel less than about 70 feet. But the he says it's a complex problem to solve because recreational and commercial boaters haven't been regulated and have a history of independence on the water.

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