Shipping industry too slow in adopting anti-terror measures

LONDON – The world’s shipping industry is dragging its feet in implementing anti-terror laws due to take effect at the end of this month, figures released by the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) show. The United Nations’ security requirements, described by the industry as the toughest measures since World War II, are mandatory for all merchant ships, ports and oil and gas terminals engaged in international trade. IMO Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulos criticized governments for failing to take their obligations seriously. Mitropoulos, attending a maritime conference in Greece on Monday, told shipping newspaper Lloyd’s List that out of 147 signatory nations representing 98 percent of the world’s maritime industry involved in international trade, only Singapore and India were fully compliant with regard to ports, terminals and fleets. Describing progress as «very disappointing,» he said governments that had signed up to the code «have not responded as efficiently as I would have expected.» «These figures and the disparity between the level of compliance by the industry and governments reinforces my plea for action without delay,» he told Lloyd’s List. A spokesman for the UN’s International Maritime Organization in London said only 18.25 percent of the world’s fleet and 9.9 percent of the 6,000 port facilities were now compliant. He said the statistics were based on a poll of 50 nations, to which 35 replied. «It’s a snapshot, but it does give us a reasonable picture,» he said. Asked if the figures meant that large swaths of the trillion-dollar industry would miss the July 1 deadline, the spokesman replied, «It would be inappropriate for us to comment like that, but you can draw your own conclusions.» Industry analysts and security experts have for months warned that the tight security measures could slow or even harm world trade. According to the United Nations, over 90 percent of world trade is transported by sea, including crucial commodities like oil, gas, coal, iron ore and grains. Mitropoulos urged law enforcement agencies across the world to use common sense in applying the new rules. The measures apply to all ships – oil tankers, general cargo, container or passenger ships – engaged in world trade. The security code also stipulates that ports visited in the complex web of trade need to be security certified, with vessels required to keep a log of the last 10 ports they visit, so that respective law enforcement officials can check whether they have visited a «contaminated» port. The US Coast Guard has repeatedly warned that ships, including oil tankers, that do not have security plans in place or that call at a non-compliant port could be denied entry. Many experts regard the United States as the litmus test for the whole industry because of its tough rhetoric on compliance. The United States, fearful of a seaborne attack on one of its ports by Al Qaeda, or operatives sneaking ashore unchecked, has said it will strictly enforce the code, and expects other nations to do so.