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Maritime Terrorism - A New Kind of Threat - A New Solution

Felix Aponte

Maritime Terrorism is on the rise and responsible for billions of dollars worth of economic losses to the commercial shipping industry. In the United States alone there are key international mega ports, over 95,000 miles of shoreline, 290,000 square miles of water, and 70 million recreational boats. (Not including our Commercial Fleets). More than 80% of world trade travels by water and 90% are by container. Incredibly 7 million shipping containers enter the US every year! Law enforcement unit charged with enforcing the laws and protecting our waterways are faced with the difficult task of securing our coastlines, bridges, rivers, tunnels and port of calls. Maritime attacks on US vessels receive little media attention. Maritime Piracy is on the rise and terrorist groups are seeking to obtain WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) to use against any target of interest!

What we fail to understand is that Maritime Terrorism can coincide with conventional WMD. An example of this is what the shipping industry calls LNG’s or Liquid Natural Gas carrier Ships. The likelihood of one of these ships falling to hijackers, sailed into a major port and detonated is very real. Have you every seen a tugboat pushing a gas/oil barge? How easy would it be to accost one, place them in a strategic position and ignite it? Did you know that an empty gas/oil barge is more dangerous than a full one? How do you search a ships hull for IEDs or search & secure a pier for diplomatic arrivals? When do you commit your divers to an operation?

In America, Dock houses and warehouses in our cities and industrial shipping docks are being utilized by gangs and other as safe houses, staging areas, storage depot for weapons, and command post. Why? Because of infrequent security checks, they are easy to get into and escape from. The conclusion is that maritime law enforcement units are faced with an enormous task that requires serious attention, funding and training to prevent a major incident on our Country.

ONE SOLUTION Law enforcement unit engaged in maritime security must be made aware of the complexity of this subject. Training and awareness are an essential part of the war on terror. PortGard in conjunction with APC Security Consultants has recently unveiled its training division called MRT Ops™ to the Law Enforcement/Maritime Security industry. MRT Ops™ is dedicated to training law enforcement maritime unit, military and public safety divers with the latest in surface supplied diving operations, dock house / shipboard operations, ship and land base breaching operations, new technologies and other specialty course. MRT Ops™ instructors are all former and active duty law enforcement and military personnel with extensive backgrounds and real world experience in maritime and tactical operations.

The Maritime Terrorism threat is very real and seeking for an opportune moment to strike. It has been 6 years since the horrible attacks of 9/11 on this great land of ours. Terrorists are imbedded right here in this Country. They are in your neighborhoods, towns, cities or right next door. Terrorists are cunning, patient, and vigilant and strike when security is weak and lapsed.

Stay vigil, educate your units and train hard. America is depending on you.

About the Author

Felix Aponte is a retired member of the NYC DOC Emergency Service Unit and served in three branches of the US Military. During his career with the NYCD he served as a member of the Rapid Response Unit, instructor for the ESU and Training Academy. His expertise and duties called on him to respond to major incidents both Department and Citywide to include flight 50-50, 405, 457 and Search / Recovery Operation at the WTC 9/11 attacks. Felix Aponte also served with the ESU SCUBA Unit, Executive Protection and High Risk Escort Teams, participated in inter-agency operations with the NYPD ESU, State ERT and Federal SORT units. Felix Aponte is an international trainer for Special Operation Units worldwide.

References 1. National Strategy on Maritime Security, Home Land Security, Sept 20, 2005

2. IAGS Energy Security: Maritime Terrorism, January 24, 2005

3. ICT International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, Al-Qaedas Maritime threat April 15, 2007

4. PINR (power and Interest news report): How Real is the Threat from Maritime Terrorism? Nov. 5, 2005

5. The Age of Sacred Terror: Daniel Benjamin / Steven Simon. Random House ISBN-375-50859-7

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