Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

October 18, 2006

RAND assesses maritime terror risks

Filed under: Legal Issues,Port and Maritime Security,Risk Assessment — by Christian Beckner on October 18, 2006

RAND released a report on Monday entitled “Maritime Terrorism: Risk and Liability” which provides a comprehensive qualitative risk assessment of terror threats in the maritime domain (including container shipping, cruise lines, and passenger ferries) and discusses issues related to civil liability in maritime terrorism. The press release for the report highlights some of its key conclusions:

Cruise ships and ferry boats need more protection against terrorist attacks that could kill and injure many passengers and cause serious financial losses, according to a new RAND Corporation report.

“Attacks on cruise ships and ferry boats would meet the interrelated requirements of visibility, destruction and disruption that drive transnational terrorism in the contemporary era,” said Peter Chalk, one of the report’s co-authors. “Recognizing this is essential to any comprehensive regime of maritime security.”

The report concludes it is not adequate to base maritime counterterrorism efforts only on increasing port security and the security of cargo container ships, rail cars and trucks that transport goods into and out of United States ports.

“Focusing solely on securing the container supply chain without defending other parts of the maritime environment is like bolting down the front door of a house and leaving the back door wide open,” said Henry Willis, a RAND researcher and a co-author of the report.

The study by RAND, a nonprofit research organization, also says a maritime terrorist attack is likely to create complicated liability issues that will slow efforts to compensate victims of an attack.

“We need to examine closely the challenges that a maritime attack would create for our civil justice system,” said Michael Greenberg, another of the report’s authors. “Tort liability is supposed to compensate victims while providing appropriate security incentives for firms. But ambiguous liability standards in the maritime terrorism context raise the prospect that the civil justice system may neither be effective as a compensation mechanism, nor in generating clear incentives for the private sector.”

Overall, it’s a useful and relevant study, in particular the threat assessment in Chapter Two. You can download the full report at this link.

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