Funding Favorability and Mitigating

By John McCormick  |  Posted 2003-09-09 Print this article Print


Overkill? Hardly. This summer, a man on a bicycle was found roaming the grounds of the port, unchallenged. Similarly, in New York City, at John F. Kennedy International Airport, a college student and two relatives were able to walk uncontested beneath jet airliners, after their raft washed ashore in bad weather.

Borders of ports have never been sealed off. In fact, most ports are designed for easy ingress and egress. For instance, railroad tracks lead in and out of the Oakland port; beyond them is a network of freeways. Any dirty bombs or other weapons that can be smuggled inside a container could be moved within a few minutes onto the freeways or into downtown Oakland. Six blocks from Boyles office, one leg of that freeway system splits off and becomes the Bay Bridge, crossing about eight miles to downtown San Francisco.

"Its a little unbalanced," Boyle says. "Theres been roughly $450 million allocated for maritime security, compared to billions in aviation. But when you have a lot of other ports asking for what are still basic needs, we didnt get as much."

Get a closer look at container security from the governments General Accounting Office report and other required reading.

Funding Boyles security and information projects isnt going to be easy. The Oakland port is a department of the city, but receives no tax revenue. It is supposed to be self-sustaining; and its operations are profitable. But the amount of money needed to regenerate its facilities—and fund such things as camera and sensor networks—is stepping up sizably. In 2001, the Port of Oakland recorded $16 million in depreciation, the term for the money that should be set aside to restore assets, for its maritime operations. In the year ended June 30, 2002—the year of Sept. 11, 2001—depreciation went up 52.5%, to $24.4 million.

In August, for the first time in its history, the port laid off 41 employees to help make up a projected 2003 budget deficit of $17 million. To stay competitive, the port says it must modernize its terminals and rail yards and complete a $293 million dredging project to deepen its channels from 42 feet to 50 feet. This would allow the latest generation of 8,000-ton cargo ships to make Oakland a first port of call, potentially taking business away from Long Beach and Los Angeles.

But, ironically, more business will increase Oaklands security costs. The new ships—called Super Post Panamax vessels because they are too wide to fit through the Panama Canal—accommodate stacks of cargo 22 containers wide, holding more than 6,000 containers all told.

With so many containers coming into ports on a single ship, maritime security experts say the only way to really secure a port is to build many layers of defense. The layers include physical security, such as fencing, cameras and inspections. But they also include "business" intelligence and analysis: systems that compile information on ships, crews and cargo as they are being loaded overseas and that monitor the arrival of the ship and its contents in U.S. waters.

Port managers like Boyle will be called on to make this analysis work. "I dont know how you do [a layered defense] without having the port manager as a very active player," says Stephen Flynn, one of the countys top seaport security experts and a former commander with the Coast Guard.

Next page: Reaching out to government agencies is a one-way street.


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