security measures at ports

Governments across the world have taken measures to improve security at ports. The 2001 terrorist attack in New York is associated with this move. World trade relies on maritime transport. Terrorists have also taken advantage of the transportation mode to execute their missions. To prevent their attacks and improve economic growth, governments across the world have implemented security measures at ports. These measures have greatly improved security at ports. Cargo, infrastructure, and people are now secure. However, these measures have brought some negative effects. They have increased costs and affected quality of operations. Using intermodal transportation can help reduce these effects. Actions taken to improve the security at ports have increased costs and reduced the quality of operations. However, use of intermodal transportation can help reduce the negative effects.


The 2001 terrorist attack in New York drove governments across the world towards implementing better security measures against terrorists.  One area that saw great attention is maritime transport (Mazaheri, 2008). International trade depends on maritime transport. For greater economic growth, governments have improved this system by making it smoother and more open. However, terrorist groups have also taken this opportunity to execute their missions. In response, governments have taken actions to reduce the security gaps. This has led to various security measures comprising voluntary as well as mandatory measures at ports (Mazaheri, 2008). Some of the measures taken include those targeting contracting governments. The contracting governments are to determine and also set security levels and then communicate this information to relevant port facilities.

Other measures target ships. These measures include provisions on the installation of a security alert system on a ship, permanent marking and display of the unique identification number of a ship, and equipping ships with Automatic Identification Systems (OECD, 2003). Operating companies were given security responsibilities. The main responsibility is making sure that every vessel has a certificate of International Ship Security. Ports were also given security responsibilities (OECD, 2003). They are required to have security assessments in their facilities, have measures to respond to security alerts, hire a skilled and trained facility security officer, and be sufficiently staffed and equipped to operate under three levels of security alert (OECD, 2003).

Effects of actions taken to improve the security at ports

Increased costs

Security efforts taken at ports have made maritime transportation safer. Apart from protecting cargo theft, people and facilities are being protected from terrorism. This is considered a major shift across the world. According to Willis (2016), ten years after taking security measures, ports are more secure. Through the security measures, ports are now surrounded by preparedness and great response capabilities. It is now easier to identify a suspicious shipment (Mazaheri, 2008). Authorities are able to detect illegal movement of radiological materials. Ports are now more secure. In fact, most security issues that were identified by 2006 have been solved.

However, security measures have increased costs. A report by OECD (2003) shows that security measures taken at ports have cost implications. In the report, OECD examined costs of the new security measures. In this paper, we shall look at some of the measures which led to an increase in the cost. First, let us look at the cost of ship measures. The cost of equipping ships with Automatic identification system in an international commercial fleet was estimated at $649.3 Million (OECD, 2003). Although this measure was established even before the attack, it is a security cost because its implementation date was moved and made mandatory. Also, shipowners who had equipped their vessels with this system had to upgrade it as per the new requirements and within the given deadline. These systems come with indirect costs such as the cost of building shore stations (OECD, 2003).

Second, the security measures require ship identification number. Its cost is estimated at $ 5,000 (OECD, 2003). Future re-painting cost is not included in this estimate. Third, a security alert system for every ship is required. Its cost is estimated at $ 2000 for every piece. An estimate of 100 is required for maintenance every year. This means that the cost of acquiring the system is about $86.5 million (OECD, 2003). For a fleet, around $4.3 million would be required for maintenance (OECD, 2003).

Measures targeting companies also have the price. First, every company requires at least one security officer responsible for compliance with the security rules. The cost of hiring this officer is estimated at $37, 500 annually for small companies and $150,000 for large companies (OECD, 2003). In addition, $3, 500 and $5,000 are estimated as costs for training this officer and other security officers respectively (OECD, 2003). Second, ship security assessment and security plan are required. The cost of each estimated is at $103.9 million and $51.9 million respectively (OECD, 2003). This estimate is for the total cost of an international cargo fleet.

Finally, we look at the cost of some port security measures. For the facility security assessment, the cost is estimated at $27.9 million for an international port (OECD, 2003). There is also an approximate of $ 8 million needed for maintenance costs.  For port’s facility security plan, an approximate cost of $27.9 million is incurred for an international facility (OECD, 2003). There are other costs for port security officers, training, and security equipment.

Well, maritime security measures have improved security in ports though at a price. The costs presented here are not exhaustive. The focus has been only on some security measures on ships, companies, and ports. The cost of other measures has not been presented. This is clear proof that although these measures have managed to reduce insecurity at ports, they have increased operational costs (OECD, 2003). The increase in operational costs has an impact on transportation costs. When ship owners, companies, and ports re forced to spend more on operations, people using these services expect increased costs.

Reduced quality of operations

Security measures at the port have reduced the quality of operations. For example, people experience port congestion. Rapid growth, as well as surges in containerized trade, are causing severe congestion in ports.  Security inspections are associated with congestion (Velea, 2005). This delay has negative impacts on logistics and supply chain. There is disruption of transport agreements and trade, and extra costs. Also, gangs take advantage of this problem to commit crime in ports. Smugglers take these substantial opportunities to access other people’s cargo waiting for clearance.

These inefficiencies require better measures. Most employees at the port have complained of slow work progress since the introduction of security measures (Velea, 2005). In addition to security checkups, more paperwork as well as more administration works have lowered efficiency at the ports (Velea, 2005). Studies show several negative impacts on port efficiency. For instance, operations are delayed because of change in storage procedures and increased custom inspections. For example, in Finland, changes in custom clearing require extra time leading to delays (Velea, 2005). In Greece, the involvement of strong union activities hinders cooperation with customs leading to more delays.


Security measures at ports are very important. The world cannot afford any terrorist attack on maritime area. Although the impact depends on location, target, and scope, any attack can largely affect port operations. Closure of ports is very costly (OECD, 2019). For example, when the west coast ports in the US were shut-down over labor and management disputes, billions were lost. In fact, according to port management, approximately $19.4 billion were lost in ten days (Gidado, 2015). In this estimate, costs by other ports and manufacturers that rely on these ports were not included. If this closure was due to a terrorist attack, the costs would be higher. For example, there would be property damage costs, and loss of lives (Gidado, 2015). Such costs are too high to bear. It is thus important that these measures are implemented. However, there should be strategies to curb negative impacts of these measures.

Using intermodal transportation can help reduce the increased cost as well as operational inefficiencies. Intermodal transportation involves combining several shipping modes. For example, one may use truck and rail to move cargo to the final destination (Abdou, 2006). When trucks are used together with rails, they reduce transportation costs. The cost of cargo trucking is way high compared to the cost of using a truck and a train for transportation. Cargo trucking requires more fuel compared to trains that use less diesel. Also, through intermodal transport, costs are saved by shipping in containers (Abdou, 2006). With containers, you don’t need individual handling. Less effort is required to move cargo from one mode to the other. This reduces the cost of transportation.

When it comes to security, intermodal containers are more secure. They are hard to break into. There is also additional security on every ramp. This prevents theft especially when there is delay. The protection layers make the intermodal transportation mode a better choice. This mode improves efficiency (Abdou, 2006). New trends such as the upgrading of rail networks are creating even better opportunities for shippers. Pairing truck and rail to move cargo should thus be an alternative to over-the-road trucking. 


Clearly, actions that have been taken by governments across the world to improve the security at ports have increased costs and reduced the quality of operations. Shipowners, companies, and ports have been given security responsibilities. Some are mandatory while others are optional. An estimate of the cost of fulfilling these responsibilities shows that security measures have increased the cost. They have also reduced the quality of operations by creating congestion at ports. Even with the negative effects, these measures have made ports secure across the world. Cargo, infrastructure, and people are now secure. Therefore, withdrawing these measures can never be an option. However, using intermodal transportation can help reduce these effects. This mode does not only reduce shipping cost but also improve quality of operations.


Abdou, M. (2006). Intermodal shipping: an examination of the security framework with    emphasis on container security. World Maritime University Dissertations. 126, 1-89.

Gidado, U. (2015). Consequences of Port Congestion on Logistics and Supply Chain in    African Ports. Developing Country Studies, 5 6), 160-167.

Mazaheri, A. (2008). How the ISPS code affects port and port activities. Thesis. University          College of Borås, 1-79.

OECD (2003). Security in Maritime Transport: Risk Factors and Economic Impact, 1-63.

OECD (2019). Price of Increased Maritime Security is Much Lower than Potential Cost of a         Major Terror Attack. Retrieved from               ostofamajorterrorattack.htm

Velea, I., Hintsa J., & Hameri, A. (2005). Impacts of Recent Security Regulations on Port             Operations and Strategies Comparison of Three European Ports, 1-10.

Willis, H. (2016). Rand Corporation. Retrieved from  

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