Setting Sail

Industry Focus

Setting Sail

I haven’t really given any thought to taking a cruise. I think it might be fun, and it certainly would be something different than I’ve ever done before. I also haven’t given much thought to the challenges of maintaining security for thousands on a cruise ship.

At the airport, as you are well aware, there is a certain structure in place to screen passengers. Like me, you might not even give this a second thought any longer. I love TSA PreScreening, which allows a person to zip through security. Without giving this much thought, I often wonder what TSA people find at the checkpoints.

I was shocked.

During the week of Dec. 18, 2014, TSA agents discovered 56 firearms. Of the 56 firearms found, 43 were loaded and 13 had rounds chambered. That’s at airports nationwide. Airports do have fairly strict screening procedures.

Security in the cruise ship industry remains relatively soft, in comparison. This has changed in 2015. The Coast Guard expects to increase screening requirements for passengers and their baggage.

Demand for cruising worldwide nearly doubled between 1999 and 2009, with the number of passengers increasing to 16.93 million from 8.59 million. In addition, vacationers are coming from an increasing range of national, racial, ethnic and religious groups.

Cruise lines are also expanding their operations to new, remote and potentially dangerous areas, such as the Middle East, which experts say increases ships’ chances of dealing with foreign marine facilities whose security practices are not up to par.

“The Coast Guard will be taking all necessary steps for the security of passengers,” said Jared Bickenbach, a market analyst for security and building technology at HIS Inc. “There are massive amounts of people at any given time, and there have been, in the past, movement of extremists in the Mediterranean area of the world. The bottom line is, there have only been five attacks in the past 55 years, and this program will mostly affect U.S. passengers and baggage.”

The most recent assault occurred in 2004 when terrorists belonging to an Islamist separatist group bombed the SuperFerry 14 in Manila Bay, Philippines. The attack resulted in 116 deaths.

In the United States, the Coast Guard has announced its plans to standardize passenger security screening procedures at cruise ship terminals with the creation of the Terminal Screening Program. There are currently 137 regulated cruise ship terminals, operated by 23 U.S. cruise companies. The proposed regulations will not be mandatory, resulting in a projected slow uptake over the short-term of new explosives, weapons and contraband detection equipment in the cruise ship industry.

Cruise ship terminals currently use a combination of X-ray, people scanning, explosive detection systems, canine teams and manual inspections. According to an HIS published report, the explosives, weapons and contraband detection equipment market is expected to grow by 6.7 percent to $241.6 million in 2018.

According to the website for Cruise Lines International Association Inc.—the world’s largest cruise industry association—cruise passengers, crew and baggage must pass through a security checkpoint before embarking or disembarking. Additionally, crew members must undergo pre-employment background screening. But the website does not specify whether screening methods vary by cruise line or not.

Larger cruise ship terminals prefer efficiency and greater throughput by installing newer X-ray and EDS equipment. Smaller ship terminals will likely be slower in adopting EWC equipment, and will instead use canine teams as well as manual inspections.

The Terminal Screening Program is expected to increase its security presence by developing a standardized list of prohibited items, develop training standards to consolidate requirements for screeners, and eliminate redundancies in cruise ship security regulations. Don’t be surprised if there is a requirement to screen all passenger, crew and visitors’ baggage and personal items.

Terrorism threats to the cruising industry have been minimal, especially compared to aviation, and cruise ships are considered to be more resilient due to the large number of passenger aboard each ship. Industry analysts indicate that the cruising industry is more resilient than the aviation sector, which will result in the development of specific screening requirements for the cruise ship industry. Because there is a lower probability of a terrorist attack on a cruise ship, there is an expectation that screening requirements will be much less stringent at the terminals.

Terrorism is event driven. Cruise ship terminals, like airports would have to act when and if an attack were to occur. This would undoubtedly lead to increased security screening regulations at cruise ship terminals.

Cruise ship companies tend to be more reactive than proactive with security practices because they don’t want to hurt business. Let’s hope there is enough security intelligence given to the cruise ship industry to maintain a safe, secure and orderly business.

This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of Security Today.

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