On a basic level, the world of maritime is thought of as a means of trade between two groups that are separated by a great distance. In the United States alone, the shipping industry is close a $1 trillion industry and is expanding and expected to become a $1.3 trillion industry by 2023.
In addition to trade, the maritime world is also about pleasure wherein thousands of people utilize cruise ships for vacations and similar adventures.
The increase of maritime activity makes these ships more vulnerable to terrorism. Mass terrorism on the high seas is an increasing risk, both in terms of basic warfare and economic warfare. Terrorists can attack ships carrying civilians and demand ransom or injure or kill passengers; terrorists may also target ships containing containers and steal the merchandise. Just the threat of terrorism can harm a country’s economic interests. Ships may lose certain water channels with foreign customers and certain areas of the Gulf of Mexico may go unexplored with respect to oil drilling.
Terrorism on the High Seas
Terrorism on the high seas is nothing new. Between 1992 and 1994, the Egyptian terrorist group al-Gama al-Islamiya attacked various cruise ships in the Nile River, which caused tourists to avoid Egypt for some time. Abu Sayef, a terrorist group based in the Philippines, conducted terrorist operations against shipping vessels and kidnapped tourists. In 1996, a pro-Chechen terrorist group got hold of a Turkish ferry ship sailing in the Black Sea. In 2000, the USS Cole was bombed by a terrorist group in Yemen that killed 17 servicemen.
Thus, terrorism on the high seas is nothing new and can wreak havoc on an economy.
Terrorist Use of the Maritime System
In addition to utilizing the maritime system for attacking ships, terrorists also used the system for transporting their contraband. Terrorists frequently use ships to transport weapons from the dealer to the terrorist. As the terrorists generally operate on the black market, they can often contact a dealer illegal in its own country that is willing to supply the terrorists with weapons. In fact, terrorists involved in the embassy bombings in Africa during the 1990s transported their cache of weapons via the maritime system.
In 2004, Greek authorities seized a ship that contained 700 tons of explosives. The Greek Shipping Minister, George Ameritis, described the items found on the ship as a “floating atomic bomb.” After an investigation, it was determined that the ship had links to the Irish Republican Army.
In response to terrorism in general and to maritime terrorism, standards were raised under the International Ship and Port Security Code, or ISPS. The ISPS created internationally harmonized standards for security measures aboard ships. While piracy has been around as long as international shipping, these measures were understood to be stricter and better implement maritime security. A later post with further this discuss the ISPS and maritime security.
Involved in shipping? Partner with an attorney who understands your business. Contact the Kolodny law firm, a maritime law firm.
(image courtesy of Miguel Cardona Jr.)