Coast Guard survey looks for vulnerabilities in nation’s ports

The Associated Press
Tuesday October 15, 2002

SAN DIEGO — Teams of security officers with the U.S. Coast Guard have surveyed a handful of ports nationwide to determine whether they are vulnerable to a terrorist attack, a newspaper reported Monday. 

Last month, Coast Guard officers visited harbors in San Diego; Portland, Maine; Corpus Christi, Texas and Boston, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. 

“These ports are vulnerable,” said Coast Guard Capt. Tony Regalbuto, acting director of port security. “We are focusing on prevention. We want to prevent someone from using our ports as a venue for terrorism.” 

The results revealed certain security deficiencies, but Regalbuto declined to elaborate, saying details of the report will be confidential. 

Regalbuto did say that some of the problems involved deployment of personnel for security purposes. 

Others relate to protective devices, including a lack of motion detectors, surveillance cameras and fortified fences. 

Security expert Thomas Sanderson said he was not surprised by the Coast Guard’s findings. 

Ports are far more accessible for terrorists than airports, he said. 

About 17 million containers enter U.S. ports annually, with less than 3 percent of them inspected, said Sanderson, deputy director of the Transnational Threats Initiative, a public policy think tank specializing in defense issues. 

To stem the terror threat from container traffic, the federal government is considering dispatching U.S. Customs Service agents. 

The agents will check containers at their point of origin, the Union-Tribune reported. 

Regalbuto said the Coast Guard will prepare a detailed report on security readiness at the ports within two months.