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A Time Bomb for Global Trade

Maritime-related Terrorism in an Age of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Michael Richardson

Publication Year: 2004

What is being done to counter threats of maritime terrorism and how effective are the safeguards? The author presents evidence that Al-Qaeda aims to disrupt the seaborne trading system, the backbone of the model global economy, and would use a crude nuclear explosive device or radiological bomb to do so if it could obtain one and position it to go off in a port-city, shipping strait or waterway that plays a key role in international trade. Improving maritime trade is especially important for the US and Canada, member states of the EU, Australia and New Zealand and for China, Japan and South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and other East Asian economies that have extensive direct seaborne trade. It is doubly vital for places like Singapore, Hong Kong and Rotterdam that are not only very large global seaports but also giant giant container transshipment hubs. This book discusses some major threats to seaborne trade and its land links in the global supply chain, their potential impact and the new security measures in place or pending for ships, ports and cargo containers, and recommendations for preventing or handling a catastrophic terrorist attack designed to disrupt world trade.

Published by: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute


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pp. 2-5

Table of Contents

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p. 6-6

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pp. vi-x

The threat of terrorism has escalated severalfold since terrorists struck the United States on 11 September 2001. Instead of an average of one attack by Al-Qaeda every year, post-9/11 Al-Qaeda and its associated groups stage an average of one attack every three months. Both before and after 9/11, Al-Qaeda successfully attacked ...

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Message from the Director

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pp. xi-xii

This timely book by Michael Richardson provides a useful overview of the current issues and trends in the field of maritime security; he also provides some practical recommendations to strengthen overall security and to rectify some grave weaknesses in the system. Both practitioners and the public will find his book an interesting and ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

... These questions may sound melodramatic. But the evidence gathered in this book shows that the threats to seaborne trade and its land connections, including ports and adjacent cities, are very serious and are being treated as such by knowlegeable officials, private sector executives and security analysts in North America, Asia, Europe and Australasia whose countries, trade, assets and people abroad may ...

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1. Trade, Terrorists, Shipping, and Cargo Containers

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pp. 1-12

Are sea container shipping and its land links in the global supply chain vulnerable to a major terrorist attack? Many officials in the United States, Asia and Europe believe so. Here are some samples: ...

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2. Al-Qaeda’s “Navy”

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pp. 13-27

A terrorist alert in October 2003 triggered yet another search in the worldwide hunt for one of the ships and some of the crew that have been widely reported to be part of Al-Qaeda’s undercover shipping line. Following an intelligence tip-off — said to be from the US — that some of the crew were linked to Al-Qaeda, New Zealand ...

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3. A Maritime Terror Strike — Where and How?

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pp. 28-48

Can Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, including Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), still launch major attacks? Since the terrorist strikes on the US in 2001, many Al-Qaeda leaders have been captured and the organization’s financial system, communications networks and training camps in Afghanistan disrupted. Over 3,000 organizers, operatives and ...

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4. Mega-Terror — Radiological and Nuclear

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pp. 49-64

... How could this happen? What would be the consequences of such an attack and the extent to which it could disrupt world trade? And what is being done to prevent it? The rest of this book seeks to answer these questions. ...

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5. Catastrophic Terrorism and its Potential Impact on Global Trade

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pp. 65-72

... The use of either a nuclear or powerful radiological bomb in a major port-city would cut the arteries of maritime commerce if it was believed to have come by sea. It would halt much of the world’s trade and severely damage the global economy, as governments scrambled to put in place extra security measures to protect their ...

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6. Costs and Benefits of Enhanced Security

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pp. 73-83

The new security measures for maritime trade are both multilateral and bilateral. A new international regime for port and ship security mandated by the IMO will take effect from July, 2004. Checks on seafarers are also being tightened. The ILO adopted a convention in June 2003 that provides for new seafarer identification documents ...

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7. How Secure?

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pp. 84-96

So how secure is global maritime trade and the inter-linked supply chain on land? It is clear that before the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US, there were gaping vulnerabilities not just in aviation security but in maritime and land transport security as well. ...

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8. Proliferation Security Initiative

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pp. 97-107

It is against this background of significant crime and lax regulation in international shipping — and the industry’s vulnerability to abuse by terrorists — that US President George Bush launched the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) on 31 May 2003. Variously referred to as a compact or political arrangement, it is a programme ...

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9. Sea Change and Recommendations

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pp. 108-121

Under international law, every ship must sail under the flag of a sovereign state to gain the protection of a government while on the high seas. A key lesson from the So San affair and other terrorism or WMD-related trafficking in international waters is that those trying to shut the trade down by pursuing suspect ships wherever they are ...


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pp. 122-150


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pp. 151-155

About the Author

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pp. 156-171

E-ISBN-13: 9789812305381
Print-ISBN-13: 9789812302465

Page Count: 157
Publication Year: 2004

Edition: 1

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Merchant marine -- Security measures.
  • Shipping -- Security measures.
  • Terrorism -- Prevention.
  • Weapons of mass destruction.
  • International trade -- Effect of terrorism on.
  • Hijacking of ships -- Prevention.
  • Security, International.
  • World politics -- 21st century
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