Rand report warns container ships pose WMD terror threat

Monday, September 22, 2003

LONDON Al Qaida could employ ships to transport weapons of mass destruction or convert the vessels for an attack meant to cause massive casualties.

A report by the Rand Corp. warned that sea traffic and shipping containers could be both the new target and the delivery system of choice for Al Qaida and related groups. Rand, which produced the report in cooperation with the European Commission, said an Al Qaida attack on shipping could damage global trade.

"The potential threat of terrorists using containers poses a large risk to our economies and to our societies," the report said. "Ultimately, this means that the marine sector and specifically the container transport sector remains wide open to the terrorist threat."

Entitled "Seacurity: A Stakeholder Consultation On Improving The Security Of The Global Sea Container Shipping System," the report said the international community has not become sufficiently aware of Al Qaida's threat at sea. Instead, Rand said, most counter-insurgency efforts have focused on stopping an attack in the air.

"Since 11 September 2001, the awareness of terrorist actions has clearly risen," the report said. "This increase, however, has not been as substantial in all fields as it has been in the air transport sector."

The report identified several obstacles toward supervising sea containers. They included the difficulty in tracking the route and contents of containers. Often, the report said, corrupt officials can falsify documentation and revise the bill of lading.

Less than two percent of all containers are checked to verify their reported contents, the study said. Rand proposed that the shipper or receiver be designated as responsible for the content of the container.

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