Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Rules meant to fight terror on the seas kick in

RIGOR Some predicted that the world's major ports would be disrupted by the new code, but so far international shipping is seen to have adapted well

AP , SINGAPORE

UN-backed rules protecting shipping from terrorists came into force yesterday with the world's two busiest ports in Hong Kong and Singapore reporting no early snags, suggesting Asia's major maritime centers could take the new code in stride.

However, a security expert warned a key test remained in the US, where Coast Guard officials have warned they will apply the new rules rigorously.

"The Port of Singapore maintained smooth operations despite the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code coming into force today," the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) said.

Forty-one vessels arrived at the city-state's sprawling but efficient port in the first 10 hours after midnight, and all had presented the correct documentation, the MPA said.

In Hong Kong everything was normal, with no delays or other problems, said Choi Kim-lui (蔡劍雷), chairman of that port's Cargo-Vessel Traders' Association.

"Some vessels may require our staff to show identification cards or documents under the new guidelines," Choi said.

Port facilities, owners of ships larger than 500 tonnes and the companies that unload them must make detailed plans to prepare for terrorist threats under the code, which is backed by the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Ships must have a security officer, alarm system, automatic identification system and a method of checking IDs of people who board. They must also restrict access to the engine room and bridge.

Vessels could be turned away at port if they don't have a certificate signed by their flag nation that states their compliance with the treaty. The rules were drafted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In 2002, Asia was home to the world's top six busiest ports -- Hong Kong, Singapore, Busan in South Korea, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Kaohsiung.

Their performance will give a vital sense of whether the new regime will trigger widespread disruption -- as some had feared -- as noncompliant ships are detained, delayed or turned away.

The IMO said late on Wednesday that 58.6 percent of ships and 53.4 percent of ports were compliant. Richardson said most major shipping lines and large ports were believed to have already met the new guidelines, but many smaller players had yet to comply.

In Batam, Indonesia -- one of those second-line facilities -- portmaster Sudirman Purwo said the port was not yet compliant but hoped to be ready within two months.

Between 20 to 30 cargo ships call at Batam daily, offloading cargo to Singapore, Japanese, Korean and US-owned manufacturing interests taking advantage of the country's low labor costs.

These ships have to pass through the Malacca Straits -- the vital trade route that links the Indian and Pacific oceans.

US and Asian officials have warned about the threat from pirates and terrorists in this key sea lane, which is bordered by Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.

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