The Challenge for Canadian Port Security & Policing
Dec 15, 2008

As identified by the Canada Council, competing ports in the U.S. have a much better foundation under which to work. American ports are publicly owned, and port officials are elected locally, therefore, port developments in the local public interest receive grants derived from local taxation. Alternatively, limited human and financial resources continue to present a significant disadvantage for Canadian ports.

Considering that much of the container cargo arriving at Canadian ports is destined for the U.S., we must remain competitive with their ports, particularly in terms of security. Let us examine the overall protection of ports. The phrase ‘protective services’ is widely used to define the three distinct components of security, law enforcement and emergency response.

A significant difference between Canadian seaports and those of other countries in the world is that Canada does not have dedicated port police employed directly by the ports as part of their protective services. The International Association of Airport and Seaport Police (IAASP) believes that dedicated port policing is the key to providing effective protective services to ports, particularly in cases of widespread crisis when local law enforcement and emergency services may not be available to respond.

Commerce vs Security
When discussing security for all ports, one must remember that there are two important competing priorities. In the first instance, the ports are responsible for the movement of cargo and passengers in the most cost-effective and expeditious manner. Security, on the other hand, does not attach the same value to the expeditious movement of passengers and cargo, otherwise security standards would be rendered largely ineffective. Any law enforcement activity that is likely to interfere with cargo or passenger flow is regarded by the industry as an encumbrance and an effective loss of revenue.

The following international situations clearly illustrate this common conflict of priorities:

Fiji has just announced that it will disband the 180 member security force at its ports. This has come as a result of pressure from the industry not to pay the cost of security which increases cost of imported merchandize. Under the previous system, one in five containers entering the ports of Fiji was underwent security scanning. The Fiji military has expressed concern about the national security risks of importation of illicit drugs and materiel to support terrorist activity. The industry, however, has discounted these criticisms, saying that the security risks to ports are low and that the cost of security is too high.

In the UK, the London Metropolitan Police, because of increased security threats at Heathrow Airport, spend 7 million pounds per year providing security of the airport. In one of the terminals, as many as four heavily-armed police officers patrol together when there are heightened security alerts. Heathrow airport is operated by a private company with profits going to shareholders. Some feel that the airport operator should therefore be made to pay for the increased security provided by the police rather than the tax paying public.

The British Association of Chiefs of Police has identified the same problem with other airports across the country and is now asking the government for a surcharge on all airline tickets for flights through UK airports to pay for the policing services.

As you can see, in ports there is a universal challenge of striking an acceptable balance between the expeditious movement of passengers and cargo and effective security and law enforcement.

In Canada, more thought must be given to who will pay for high alert port security that requires the presence of heavily armed police on site. What outside agreements, protocols and planning arrangements are in place when our ports are unable to protect themselves?

In times of crisis or increased threat, heightened security will be expected at seaports. If competing ports in the U.S. have a superior ‘protective services’, they will have a competitive advantage over Canadian ports if, and when, threats and exposures increase.

Under the previous nationally mandated ‘protective services programme’ the Ports Canada Police were responsible for the administration of the overall programme through Ports Canada in Ottawa, accountable directly to the Minister of Transport to maintain proper standards in national seaports.

In the mid 1990’s the Port Corporations and industry obtained autonomy for the ports and severance from the National Port System under Ports Canada. The premise was to make Canadian ports more competitive. Under the new Marine Act ports would be renamed as Port Authorities providing their own security and as a city and municipal tax payer entitled to call the local police when needed. The system works when there is peace and good order and there are no specific or serious threats or exposures relating to security, law enforcement or emergencies.

Dedicated port policing provides a much better and reliable service than outside police services, since the latter view the policing of ports as a temporary assignment and an extension of their own authority and jurisdiction. There is also a serious gap in coordinating with specialist port police agencies in other countries that have a greater mandate to support the industry. Another important matter, national security, must be taken into consideration when comparing Canadian ports to others.

Port authorities in the United States consider themselves part of the critical infrastructure to protect their country. The U.S., already targeted by acts of terrorism, has a heightened awareness of the need for the most effective security, law enforcement and business resumption programs in their ports. They often initiate security measures beyond mandated requirements. The U.S. and other ports promote their police and security as a marketing tool to demonstrate how they are safeguarding their ports and goods in the public and national interest.

Unfortunately, Canada has been criticized for complacency in some quarters, since it believes that it is immune to acts of terrorism that other countries around the world have been exposed to. The Canadian Senate Committee on National Security and Defence has been most vocal on this matter. Its valid recommendations continue to be ignored.

Challenge in the Pacific Rim
How do competing U.S. seaports on the Pacific Rim apply and market their protective programmes? We will examine the different infrastructures and how they could prove a competitive advantage against Canadian ports.

Port Metro Vancouver and Prince Rupert are in direct competition with U.S. ports on the west coast of North America. In policing, it is important to note that the U.S. Coast Guard, a para-military organization, performs many constabulary duties in policing these ports. All waterborne activity in the U.S. ports is under the authority and direction of the Captain of the Port, the senior officer of the U.S. Coast Guard. This is supplemented by police and naval marine patrols.

The Port of Seattle, Washington, is Vancouver’s closest U.S. competitor. Though smaller, the Port of Seattle has a dedicated port police department of around 140 personnel. Though they are also responsible for the airport (SeaTac), they share policing the shoreline (with a number of boats) in conjunction with the city of Seattle police and the U.S. Coast Guard. The department has specialist units such as investigations, marine patrols, maritime ERT teams (with heavy weapons), Crisis Negotiations Unit, Police Divers, K9 units, EOD unit, cruise ship detail, public relations, and school and community relations (crime prevention) programmes. The port’s dedicated security department also manages the ID and access control programs, and works closely with the port police. Seattle markets its police department as part of its corporate structure. Particular attention is paid to developing the growing holiday cruise industry, which continues to expand at the expense of Port Metro Vancouver. Before Holland America Cruise Line established its headquarters in Seattle, a review of the security and port policing was undertaken at the facilities there by the Rotterdam Port Police. Following a positive report, Seattle won the day.

The Port of Tacoma, Washington. Mainly a container port, Tacoma does not have a police department but employs a substantial number of security guards. The guards are all former police officers and are armed. The security department is, in practice, a private police force.

The Port of Long Beach, California, employs a security department as the Harbor Patrol. It consists of as many as 60 armed security guards. They undertake many responsibilities normally assigned to civilian port authority personnel. The Department works in conjunction with the Port of Los Angeles police department.

The Port of Los Angeles, California is the nation’s largest port in terms of container traffic. The port police department is in the process of 100% expansion of up to 200 sworn members, and has a new HQ and Training Academy. The Department has a number of specialized units including: investigations, intelligence, anti terror specialists, marine patrols, maritime ERT teams (with heavy weapons), Police Divers, K9 units, EOD Team, cruise ship detail, Missing Cargo investigations, public relations, crime prevention, security awareness and school programmes. The ports Chief of police is also the Director of Security responsible for the implementation of the ‘TWIC’ (Transportation Worker Identifica­tion Program) required by the Federal Government.

The Port of LA is attaching a priority to ‘rapid response to security breaches’ which are detected by the video camera system which is monitored 24/7. Response to all security breaches means a full record system by the police department and identification of suspicious or questionable individuals. They do not use TV monitoring systems simply as a “post facto” investigational aid. The recent expansion of the port police means that the department will become responsible for general security at the port focussing on container movements while the port authority continues to place more emphasis on seaport security. The marine enforcement unit is expanding with recently acquired maritime law enforcement responsibilities in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The port police also head a joint law enforcement programme to deal with the problem of containers and cargos that are stolen or missing after leaving the port. Many arrests and recovered cargo seizures have taken place. The port of Los Angeles supports this joint law enforcement initiative since it does not want the reputation that goods shipped through them do not arrive at their destination intact.

Houston dockyards.

Risk and Exposures
While dealing only with the Pacific Rim, we should know that all U.S. Ports will continue to promote their law enforcement and security regimes. In contrast, Canadian ports rarely market the good work being done by present law enforcement and only occasionally mention their own security regimes. This is shortsighted, since sea cargo volumes into North America are diminishing in the current economic ­climate and competition for cargo will grow and security will continue if not increase as a key factor.

This, combined with the U.S. mandated increased security measures, over and above international recommendations, will add to the additional expenses of U.S. Ports. There have already been complaints voiced from senior U.S. Port officials that lesser standards of port security in Canada and Mexico encourage shippers to divert to non U.S. ports to avoid the more stringent security. Ships coming to U.S. ports are subject to sporadic pre-arrival boarding inspections by the U.S. Coast Guard that sometimes cause berthing delays of up to two hours. Representations have already been made to the U.S. Government and one can only speculate what initiatives could be implemented to increase the U.S. port market share, especially if Canadian port security becomes the focus of dispute.

Finally, one must wonder, with the recent growth in the illegal drugs trade, how vulnerable the Canadian seaports are to the infiltration of organised crime and the import of contraband. A recent intelligence report by the RCMP shows that gangs have significantly infiltrated Canada’s airports and are facilitating other illegal activities. What results would be garnered by a similar assessment of seaports?

The most efficient way for criminal organisations to import contraband into any country is by sea container. One reason is the movement of cargo is a priority for industry making it difficult or impossible at this point in time to examine all imported cargo. In addition, criminal investigations at seaports are much more complex than at border crossings and airports. Closer scrutiny, inspections and searches are expected. Detections rates are naturally higher as perpetrators can be more easily identified and liable to immediate arrest. Enforcement statistics are therefore much better by comparison.

We should not lose sight of the fact that drug importation through our seaports is still a serious problem. For example; the Ports Canada Police joint force drug team in the Port of Vancouver, prepared a report of the total street value drug seizures between 1987 and 1994. The targeted drugs were Heroin, Cocaine, Hashish, Hash Oil, Marijuana and Opium. The results revealed a total street value seizure figure of $1,192,952.000 over this period. This averages almost $150 million dollars per year in street value drug seizures by the combined force drug team. There is no reason to believe that this activity has diminished since that time and in fact indications are that it has increased.

Seaports are just as vulnerable to the export of contraband. Stolen automobiles remain a good source of revenue for organised crime in Canada. Bill C-343 and C-53 dealing with this matter should be re-introduced.

Canada should think more seriously about the protection of its ports. Our ports must not be tagged as venues where crime and corruption can flourish. More resources should be provided to address organised crime and potential acts of terrorism.

Why should the cost of port policing and the provision of more resources for law enforcement not be met out of port revenues as they are in competing ports in the U.S.? Let us hope that the 2010 Olympics do not highlight our inadequacies.

Mike Toddington is the Executive Director of the International Association of Airport and Seaport Police.
© FrontLine Security 2008