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Zero Sum Security

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Security code red! Security code red! Imagine that you're the director of a major port that handles huge volumes of passengers, cargo, and personal boats and such. And you have been told that a terrorist attack is likely on your port during the next couple of days. How can you best protect your port from the potential violence? Thousands of lives depend on your plan well.

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Zero Sum Security Brochure

Zero Sum Security Brochure

What is a port?

A port is a location on a coast or shore containing one or more harbors where ships can dock. These ships usually carry people and cargo that can be transferred to land, where more people and cargo can then board the ships to be taken elsewhere. When talking about a port or a seaport, you are referring to a port that has access to the sea. If you have ever been on a cruise, you have most likely been to a cruise home port. This port marks either the beginning or the end, or both, of a cruise ship journey. This is where the bulk of passengers embark and disembark, as well as the place where supplies are loaded. Other kinds of ports include fishing ports, cargo ports, and ports of call.

What are some known threats to ports?

The major concern, if not the largest, of threats in ports involves cargo. Weapons of mass destruction, dirty radiation bombs, and nuclear bombs can be placed on cargo ships and can detonate in a port. It was estimated that a Hiroshima size explosion at a port can kill around 1.5 million people. There is also the threat of the disabling and hijacking of ships in the port. A disabled ship can shut down an entire port, especially if it is blocking the waterway. There are also threats because of the geographical location of the port. Near urban areas, infiltration by terrorists is made easier because of the amounts of people there to mask terrorist movements. Ports are also vulnerable to armed attack because ship crew are usually unarmed, so port attacks and piracy can be threats.

What type of security is used to maintain a port?

There is not much information on port security available for the general public because accessibility of such information in itself is a security threat. Imagine if a terrorist could look up the security of a certain port without having to go through a security check! However, the generalities of security for passengers, cargo, and employees are available. There is much technology used for the inspection of cargo because physical inspection of each piece of cargo is not cost efficient. Only about 2% of all cargo that goes through ports is physically inspected by U.S. Customs. Cargo inspection begins at the port of origin. Mainly, inspection is for the identification of high-risk containers. X-rays are used for cargo that enters a port through ground transport. If the X-ray profile does not match what the cargo is declared to be, then the cargo is inspected. There is also technology like radioactivity sensors in cranes that move containers to separate high-risk containers quickly and efficiently without hindering transport and Radio Frequency Identification tags to track ships at every step of the journey. Tamper evident containers are used as well to assure that not only illegal goods, but also weapons that can cause economical and human costs are kept out. There has also been a movement to become aware of what happens in the maritime domain of a country. The maritime domain of a country is very similar to the airspace of a country, but deals with the ocean. Passengers travelling on cruise ships are subject to similar security measures as in airports. Baggage is screened, and passengers are subject to a metal detector. Also, after a cruise ship has sailed, only authorized people can leave and enter the ship. In ports, there are security people and cameras to keep track of cargo that is waiting to board a ship to continue its journey. The security people must have a clearance card to gain access to secured areas, and must also provide biometric information like fingerprints or retina scans. Security personnel also have gone through background checks.

What is a zero-sum game?

A zero-sum game is a game where there is a fixed number of winnable points. If you gain points, you inevitably take points from your opponent. Imagine that you and three friends have a cake. Logically, you would cut it into four equal pieces. If one friend wants more cake, then he or she has to take it from another friend in order to have what he wants. This is similar to operating a budget. You have a fixed amount of money to do a certain amount of things. If you want more money for one part of the budget, you must balance it by taking money from other things. If you have a fixed number of security people, then in order to increase the security of one part of your port, you must remove people from another part, and thus increase the security of one place, but inevitably lower the security where you took the personnel.


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Tier 2 Lessons: Grades 7 - 12+