Thu, Aug 05, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Singapore urges action on security of global shipping


Singapore, located on a waterway that carries half the world's oil, urged countries yesterday to do more to protect ports and sea lanes against terrorist attacks, fearing a successful strike would cripple global commerce.

Transport Minister Yeo Cheow Tong said a UN-backed anti-terror code for shipping that took effect July 1 doesn't include small vessels such as those that attacked the USS Cole in 2000, and that the contents of cargo containers should be more closely monitored.

"The international maritime community now needs to ensure that maritime security extends to the larger transportation and logistics industry," Yeo said at the start of a two-day conference on maritime security.

The new International Ship and Port Facility Security Code -- endorsed by the UN International Maritime Organization -- is the biggest shake up in shipping security in decades.

Spawned by rising concern after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the US, it requires port facilities, owners of ships larger than 500 tonnes and companies that unload them to make detailed plans to protect against terrorist threats.

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

Yeo said new rules were needed for ships under 500 tonnes, which often work in tandem with larger vessels, and that more information was needed to identify what was inside containers.

"Increasingly, there is a need to know what is in the box," he said.

Maritime and Ports Authority chief executive Lui Tuck Yew said his organization will develop new technology to track smaller craft that continually zigzag in between larger vessels and into Singapore's ports.

Lui said once that is implemented, Singapore will be able to track close to 95 percent of all seaborne vessels, adding that it was perhaps time to add background checks for seafarers.

Officials fear an al-Qaeda linked terrorist could pose as a legitimate shipmate to gain access to the control room and use the ship as a floating bomb and sail it into port.

Yeo reiterated that narrow, heavily used waterways such as the Malacca Straits -- which links the Indian and Pacific Oceans and is bordered by Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore -- could be targeted by terror groups.

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