Airport and Port Security Challenges

A Guardian newspaper article on the Brussels Airport theft, can be accessed at:   A Slate magazine article on similar occurrences at other airports can be accessed at:

The Costa Concordia, built in 2006, was 114,000 tons and accommodated 3,780 passengers. It is however dwarfed by the largest ships afloat, Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas, which weigh 225,000 tons and accommodate over 6,000 passengers. Increasing ship size and passenger capacity saves money through economies of scale and increases income and profit. On an economic level, all of this makes sense, but it means ignoring the SOLAS requirement that a ship can be abandoned within 30 minutes of an abandon ship call. This time frame was practical with older ships, but it is increasingly unrealistic as ships are becoming bigger. The problem is acknowledged by the industry. However, it advocates extending the time allotted for evacuation rather than reducing ship size or changing ship design to ensure the regulation can be met. This CLSE Centre for the Analysis of Risk and Regulation article can be accessed (on Page 4) at:

An audit report, produced by the Office of the Inspector general (OIG) of the DHS entitled United States Customs and Border Protection’s Radiation Portal Monitors at Seaports, stated that “Although all cargo is being screened, we identified some radiation portal monitors utilized infrequently or not utilized at all ..."

The Radiation Portal Manager (RPM)  detection system is a passive, non-intrusive means to screen vehicles and containers for the presence of nuclear and radiological materials. Vehicles and containers pass through RPM sensor panels positioned on opposite sides of seaport terminal exit lanes. Two panels, situated on each side, contain tubes filled with helium-3 and polyvinyl toluene plastic to detect radiation sources as containers pass through the system. The OIG report stated that to date there have been over 2.8 million alarms world-wide, but during the same period, the only success for this RPM has been finding granite/tile, fertilizer and earth ware. No matter what these alarms [are caused by, they] must be processed as if there was a nuclear device, a supervisor called, etc., which is manpower intensive. Understandably, the [OIG] report fails to say if any of those alarms were valid, but that is the number you would need to calculate a risk/cost analysis to determine a success rate.”

“An RPM costs over $1 million, and, basically, it is a bell ringer to let the operator know that there may be some type of radioactive material in the container,” said the former port official. “When an alarm sounds, the RPM operator takes out a handheld Radioactive Isotope Identifier (RIID) -- at an approximate cost of $15,000 -- and locates and specifically identifies the anomaly, as the RPM does not have that capability.

An article on the OIG report published in Homeland Security Today can be accessed at: