Cruise Ship Terror Whitepapers

The RAND Corporation, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security all state in their white papers that cruise ship terror is coming and that America is not prepared. RAND goes as far as stating that the most deadly way for terrorists to attack is with a nuclear or biological device. White papers are issues by governments to create plausible deniability and to psychologically prepare the public for the impending terror attack.

Title: Maritime Terrorism: Risk And Liability
Date: 2006
Source: RAND 

Abstract: Summary 

Policymakers have become increasingly concerned in recent years about the possibility of future maritime terrorist attacks. Although the historical occurrence of such attacks has been limited, concerns have nevertheless been galvanized by recognition that maritime vessels and facilities may (in some respects) be particularly vulnerable to terrorism. In addition, some plausible maritime attacks could have very significant consequences, in the form of mass casualties, severe property damage, and attendant disruption of commerce. Understanding thenature of maritime terrorism risk requires an investigation of threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences associated with potential attacks, as grounded both by relevant historical data and by intelligence on the capabilities and intentions of known terrorist groups. Assessment of the risks associated with maritime terrorism can help policymakers and private firms to calibrate and prioritize security measures, prevention efforts, and mitigation plans.

The risks associated with maritime terrorism also provide the context for understanding government institutions that will respond to future attacks, and particularly so with regard to the U.S. civil justice system. In principle, civil liability operates to redistribute the harms associated with legally redressable claims, so that related costs are borne by the parties responsible for having caused them. In connection with maritime terrorism, civil liability creates the prospect that independent commercial defendants will be held responsible for damages caused by terrorist attacks. Liability is thus a key aspect of the government’s institutional response to terrorism, because (1) it creates strong incentives for private-sector prevention and mitigation efforts, (2) it serves as
a foundation for insurance to spread related risks, and (3) it defines the scope and likelihood of compensatory transfer payments from firms to victims.

Th is book explores the nature of maritime terrorism risks associated with a limited set of attack scenarios involving passenger and container shipping. The book also examines U.S. civil liability rules as they may apply in the context of these types of attacks.

Risk Assessment: Threat, Vulnerability, and Consequences


Our analytic strategy for addressing the risks associated with attacks on passenger and container shipping began from a broad assessment of related threats and vulnerabilities, based on a combination of historical data regarding previous attacks, and on a series of interviews with counterterrorism experts. We then investigated the likely consequences that would follow from different modes of attack, drawing on historical data and publicly available analyses, and by framing those consequences in terms of human effects (e.g., casualties), economic effects (e.g., property damage and business disruption), and intangible effects (e.g., political and governmental responses). Finally, we combined the information on threat, vulnerability, and consequences to generate estimates of relative risk, in connection with attack scenarios involving ferries, cruise ships, and container shipping. Our qualitative method for generating these risk estimates involved the use of defined ordinal scales to assess terrorists’ intents and capabilities, target vulnerabilities, and attack consequences. This method is described in detail in the
appendix.

With regard to attacks on ferries, our findings suggest that onboard bombings present the greatest combination of threat and vulnerability among the specific types of assaults that we considered. In terms of consequences, all of the attack modes targeting ferries involve roughly comparable estimates of potential economic harm, but on-board bombings are projected to be somewhat less invidious in inflicting human casualties than two other modes of assault bombing, and ramming attacks involving improvised explosive devices [IEDs]). 

With regard to attacks on cruise ships, we considered a broader range of likely attacks, and found that on-board bombings,
followed by standoff artillery assaults and food or water contamination scenarios, present the greatest combination of threat and vulnerability. Once again, all of the attack modes targeting cruise ships involve roughly comparable estimates of potential economic harm, but parasitic bombings, ramming attacks with IEDs, and biological attacks (i.e., those involving contamination of a ship’s food or water supply) are projected as presenting somewhat greater potential for harm in the form of human casualties.

With regard to attacks on containerized shipping, we note that cargo vessels themselves are attractive primarily as a means to transport weapons or to sabotage commercial operations more broadly, rather than as a direct target for terrorist assaults per se. This being said, most scenarios we considered had comparable combinations of threat and vulnerability. The economic consequences associated with any maritime assault that shuts down operations at a major U.S. port could be severe. A dirty-bomb attack perpetrated using an illicit cargo container presents the greatest combination of likelihood and expected economic harm. 

In terms of human consequences (i.e., casualties), most container shipping scenarios present a low likelihood of inflicting such harms, and the prospect of relatively modest human consequences even where that likelihood is realized. Perhaps most notably, container shipping scenarios involving nuclear detonations are less likely than the other scenarios we considered, but could entail far greater potential consequences in both human and economic terms (RAND, 2006).

Title: Maritime Security: Potential Terrorist Attacks And Protection Priorities
Date: May 14, 2007
Source: CRS Report for Congress 

Abstract

A key challenge for U.S. policy makers is prioritizing the nation’s maritime security activities among a virtually unlimited number of potential attack scenarios. While individual scenarios have distinct features, they may be characterized along five common dimensions: perpetrators, objectives, locations, targets, and tactics. In many cases, such scenarios have been identified as part of security preparedness exercises, security assessments, security grant administration, and policy debate.

There are far more potential attack scenarios than likely ones, and far more than could be meaningfully addressed with limited counter-terrorism resources. There are a number of logical approaches to prioritizing maritime security activities. One approach is to emphasize diversity, devoting available counterterrorism resources to a broadly representative sample of credible scenarios. Another approach is to focus counter-terrorism resources on only the scenarios of greatest concern based on overall risk, potential consequence, likelihood, or related metrics. U.S. maritime security agencies appear to have followed policies consistent  with one or the other of these approaches in federally-supported port security exercises and grant programs. Legislators often appear to focus attention on a small number of potentially catastrophic scenarios.

Clear perspectives on the nature and likelihood of specific types of maritime terrorist attacks are essential for prioritizing the nation’s maritime anti-terrorism activities. In practice, however, there has been considerable public debate about the likelihood of scenarios frequently given high priority by federal policy makers, such as nuclear or “dirty” bombs smuggled in shipping containers, liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker attacks, and attacks on passenger ferries. Differing priorities set by port officials, grant officials, and legislators lead to differing allocations of port security resources and levels of protection against specific types of attacks. How they ultimately relate to one another under a national maritime security strategy remains to be seen.

Maritime terrorist threats to the United States are varied, and so are the nation’s efforts to combat them. As oversight of the federal role in maritime security continues, Congress may raise questions concerning the relationship among the nation’s various  maritime security activities, and the implications of differing protection priorities among them. Improved gathering and sharing of maritime terrorism intelligence may enhance consistency of policy and increase efficient deployment of maritime security resources. In addition, Congress may assess how the various elements of U.S. maritime security fit together in the nation's overall strategy to protect the public from terrorist attacks.

Conclusion

Public information suggests that the threat of maritime terrorism is significant, and can take myriad forms, but that different dimensions of the nation’s maritime security activities prioritize these activities in different ways. As oversight of the federal role in maritime security continues, Congress may raise questions concerning the relationship among these activities, and the implications of differing terrorism scenario priorities among them. Improved gathering and sharing of maritime terrorism intelligence may enhance consistency across various U.S. maritime security activities and increase the efficient deployment of maritime security resources.

In addition to these issues, Congress may assess how the various elements of U.S. maritime security fit together in the nation's overall strategy to protect the public from terrorist attacks. For example, bulk quantities of hazardous chemicals are found in marine vessels, in rail and highway tankers, and in chemical facilities on land. Terrorists may seek to exploit such chemicals in any of these sectors. Balancing the nation's homeland security resources across the maritime and non-maritime sectors is a policy challenge because specific sectors may fall under different homeland security authorities and regulations. Uncertainty about terrorist capabilities and activities complicates this problem by making it difficult to compare terrorist attack scenarios across sectors. Without such a comprehensive perspective on terrorist threats, security analysts may have difficulty identifying which assets to protect and how well to protect them with the limited security resources available. Reviewing how these security priorities and activities fit together to achieve common goals could be an oversight challenge for Congress (CRS Report for Congress, 2007)

Title: MARITIME SECURITY: Varied Actions Taken to Enhance Cruise Ship Security, but Some Concerns Remain
Date: April 2010
Source:
 United States Governmnet  Accountability Office 

Abstract
 

Why GAO Did This Study


Varied Actions Taken to Enhance Cruise Ship Security, but Some Concerns Remain Highlights of GAO-10-400, a report to the Chairman, Committee on Homeland Security, House of Representatives Over 9 million passengers departed from U.S. ports on cruise ships in 2008, and according to agency officials, cruise ships are attractive terrorist targets. GAO was asked to review cruise ship security, and this report addresses the extent to which (1) the Coast Guard, the lead federal agency on maritime security, assessed risk in accordance with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) guidance and identified risks; and (2) federal agencies, cruise ship and facility operators, and law enforcement entities have taken actions to protect cruise ships and their facilities. GAO reviewed relevant requirements and agency documents on maritime security, analyzed 2006 through 2008 security operations data, interviewed federal and industry officials, and made observations at seven ports. GAO selected these locations based on factors such as the number of sailings from each port. Results of the visits provided additional information on security, but were not projectable to all ports.

What GOA Found

The Coast Guard has assessed the risks to cruise ships in accordance with DHS guidance—which requires that the agency analyze threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences—and, with other maritime stakeholders, identified some concerns. Specifically, agency officials reported in January 2010 that there had been no credible threats against cruise ships in the prior 12 months, but also noted the presence of terrorist groups that have the capability to attack a cruise ship. The Coast Guard, cruise ship and facility operators, and law enforcement officials generally believe waterside attacks are a concern for cruise ships. Agency officials and terrorism researchers also identified terrorists boarding a cruise ship as a concern. The Coast Guard has also identified the potential consequences of an attack, which would include potential loss of life and economic effects.
Federal agencies, cruise ship and facility operators, and law enforcement entities have taken various actions to enhance the security of cruise ships and their facilities and implement related laws, regulations, and guidance, and additional actions are under way. DHS and component agencies have taken security measures such as the Coast Guard providing escorts of cruise ships during transit, and CBP’s review of passenger and crew data to help target passenger inspections. Cruise ship and cruise ship facility operators’ security actions have included developing and implementing security plans, among other things. The Coast Guard is also in the process of expanding a program to deter and prevent small vessel attacks, and is developing additional security measures for cruise ships. In addition, CBP’s 2005-2010 Strategic Plan states that CBP should seek to improve identification and targeting of potential terrorists through automated advanced information. CBP, however, has not assessed the cost and benefit of requiring cruise lines to provide passenger reservation data, which in the aviation mode, CBP reports to be useful for the targeting of passengers for inspection. GAO’s previous work identified evaluations as a way for agencies to explore the benefits of a program. If CBP conducted a study to determine whether collecting additional passenger data is cost effective and addressed privacy implications, CBP would be in a better position to determine whether additional actions should be taken to augment security.

Conclusion


Given the number of passengers that travel on cruise ships each year and the attractiveness of these vessels as terrorist targets, it is important that the risk to cruise ships is assessed and actions are taken to help ensure the security of these ships and their facilities. Federal agencies and maritime security stakeholders, including cruise lines, have implemented various measures to better secure cruise ships and their facilities. As examples, the Coast Guard provides escorts for cruise ships to prevent waterside attacks and CBP screens passengers using manifest data to prevent terrorists from boarding cruise ships. Although these measures have been implemented and there has been no recent credible terrorist threat against cruise ships, this does not  preclude the possibility of such an incident occurring in the future, particularly given the existence of terrorist groups that have the  capability to attack a cruise ship. Moreover, the President’s 2010 memorandum directing DHS to aggressively pursue enhanced screening efforts further underscores the potential importance of this type of security action. By conducting a study to determine whether requiring cruise lines to provide automated Passenger Name Record data on a systematic basis is cost effective and addresses privacy implications, CBP would be in a better position to determine whether additional actions should be taken to augment security through enhanced screening of cruise ship passengers (United States Governmnet  Accountability Office, 2010)