PNG MARITIME EASY PREY FOR TERRORISTS

Commentary

By Lt.Col. James Laki

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Apr. 7) – It no longer seems to be only a remote possibility that terrorists could launch an attack on Australian interests using an aircraft departing from Port Moresby, nor would it be difficult to target the Australian waterfront from anywhere in Papua New Guinea. 

It is alarming that Papua New Guinea’s security systems are in a very weak and sad state. 

Also, there are no plans, no coordination and no response units, except for traditional operational units that may have no mobile capacity. 

Criminal and organized antisocial elements, within and beyond national boundaries, are undoubtedly taking advantage of this situation. 

Stolen property, which is fenced at a relatively lower price than the cost of new goods, provides a lucrative market for the general public whose demand for cheap goods is high, given the high cost of living in urban centers. 

Many stolen goods are "supplied" from shipping containers that "go missing" from the main ports in the country, whether the commodities are cigarettes or lamb flaps destined for the local market. 

As many people are involved, what seems hard to move becomes simple. Financial gains, although perhaps small, are sufficient incentives for many urban dwellers, who are on the poverty line. 

Similar financial gains can be made by engaging suspect foreigners who arrive with improper documentation. These foreigners may appear to be innocent people but they could be con-artists or members of international criminal gangs, who may be involved in human smuggling. 

The stage for transnational crime is set when socioeconomic conditions are declining and the situation is vulnerable, especially when the State’s capacity to monitor, prevent, or intercept, declines. 

The Government is also rent-seeking, through fuel prices, motor parts, facility charges and soon-to-be-introduced head taxes. 

The lapse in security is against the flow of events, as the international system is undergoing a period of dramatic change. 

These changes are not only in response to the threat of terrorism but also because of changes brought about by globalization and interdependence. 

International and regional organizations, including economic organizations such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC), are addressing security issues.

Secure, efficient trade is a priority for governments and businesses in the region. This trade accounts for almost 50 per cent of the world’s trade, most of which is transported by sea, as reported by the Council for Security Co-operation in Asia Pacific (CSCAP) and the Pacific Economic Co-operation Council (PECC).

One of the weakest links in managing the changes is the lack of an effective maritime regime to provide security for regional supply chains. Shipping is vital to these supply chains but is threatened by maritime terrorism and the increasing incidence of hijacking and armed attacks against ships, as well as other crimes, such as piracy, drug trafficking and people smuggling.

Weaknesses within the current maritime regime include:

According to CSCAP and PECC, regional co-operation is essential if we are to overcome these weaknesses and ensure the efficient implementation of maritime security initiatives. 

APEC can play a key role in this area as its informal structure and focus on markets may allow it to deal with issues that, in more formal settings, could be prone to second-best solutions. 

The Asia Pacific region has an enormous stake in ensuring secure shipping and seaborne trade, as most of the world’s leading mega-ports are in APEC economies. 

East Asian seas, particularly the strategic straits of South East Asia that link with the vital energy routes from the Indian Ocean, are the confluence of much shipping in the region. The transport of goods and passengers by sea is essential in the archipelagos of Japan, the Philippines, and Indonesia. 

The extent of shipping movements and the unique geographical features of the region present both opportunities and challenges for maritime security.

Also, features of the supply chains that characterize trade in the region exacerbate the risk to economic growth. Over the past 20 years, complex supply chains have been created, whereby component parts for the manufacture of goods are assembled in a variety of locations. 

This has had great benefits for consumers and producers. However, a break in this supply chain will have severe repercussions for the production process.

CSCAP and PECC Recommendations

To ensure that the regional supply chain is protected, and to engender greater confidence in the maritime regime, CSCAP and PECC recommend:

The recommendations are similar to, and in line with, the efforts of the United States’ Homeland Security Department initiatives following the infamous 9/11 terrorist attacks.

One of these initiatives is the Container Security Initiative (CSI), which preselects, based on certain risk assessments of containers destined for the United States, prior to loading on a ship in a foreign port. The CSI comprises four core elements:

International economies have embraced this initiative and have developed co-operative relationships that strengthen the overall supply chain and border security through joint government-business initiatives in Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT)

The C-TPAT initiative requires businesses to participate by signing agreements that commit them to several actions:

The benefits of participating in 

C-TPAT and a template for the secured maintenance of the supply chain in the Asia Pacific region are yet to be discussed.

Lt-Col James Laki is Acting Head of the Political and Legal Studies Division at Papua New Guinea’s National Research Institute.

April 8, 2004

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

 

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