Worried about Port
Port Says itís O.K.
man with the plan for improving the Port of Oaklandís
maritime security, Raymond A. Boyle.
Everyone is filled with trepidation about
what al Qaedaís next move will be and reports that less than
2 percent of containers moving through the nationís seaports
are checked are hardly reassuring. We sat down with Ray Boyle,
General Manager of Maritime Operations for the Port of
Oakland, and the man in charge of coordinating the Portís
maritime security plan, to find out whatís up.
BC: Lots of news reports these days about
dirty bombs and how easy it would be to slip one through a
container ship with only 2 percent of the containers being
searched. Are folks right to be worried?
Well, I think that there is a concern. It is
a potential risk, but the focus needs to be on securing the
supply chain at the earliest point and then having contingency
plans in place for the rare possibility that it could actually
ship through that chain.
The Coast Guard is charged with the
waterside security in the Bay and the Captain of the Port, a
Coast Guard Officer, has the authority to close down the Bay
and keep vessels from coming in if necessary. The 11th Coast
Guard District basically developed a plan for all of the ports
on the West Coast to come up with a set of consistent security
standards so that everybody was sort of playing from the same
sheet of music.
Just after the events of 9-11, we at the Port of Oakland
organized a local security committee. We asked the U.S. Coast
Guard, U.S. Customs, some law enforcement people, and the
terminal operators to all meet and discuss security issues and
weíve been meeting ever since on an ongoing basis. This
group, with the Port serving as the facilitator basically, has
worked with the Coast Guard to develop certain guidelines for
security standards while we wait for the U.S. Congress to pass
the Seaport Security Act. That legislation is in conference
now; both the House and the Senate have passed their own
version of the bill but the conference has to reconcile the
Once the bill is passed, regulations have to be written, and
then published in a federal register. So you are looking at
from 9 to 12 months after Congress finally passes the law
before regulations start hitting the street. I think the Coast
Guard here on the West Coast wanted to be more proactive.
BC: The economy is tanking and the Port
of Oakland is having to make budget cuts. Do you have the
resources you need to respond to these extraordinary new
We donít have the money resources that we
would like so we have aggressively sought grants. $92.3
million was designated for seaport security in a Department of
Defense emergency bill thatís already passed. The
Transportation Security Administration and the Maritime
Administration established a grant program which we applied
for in March. The awards were announced in late June by
Transportation Secretary Mineta and the Port of Oakland got
almost $5 million. The Port early on had estimated that to
make all the security improvements we would need would run in
the neighborhood of $68-70 million and here we have landed
only $4.8 million so far in grants. Thatís enough to get a
start on the projects that we have identified. We can
significantly improve the security of our terminals, not to
the highest level, but at some level in between. But we have
enough to secure the physical plant and yet retain the ability
to have a speedy and efficient movement of cargo.
Boyle looks down on new control facilities designed to
monitor container traffic coming into and leaving one
of ten container terminals on Port of Oakland
BC: The San Francisco Examiner reported
last week that the theft of crew uniforms from the Alameda
Oakland Ferry had aroused security concerns. The Port of
Oakland is a partner in running the Alameda Oakland Ferry.
Does your security plan extend to the ferries?
My security efforts are focused primarily on
the marine terminal facilities of the Port of Oakland. The
ferries are handled through our commercial real estate
department. But the U.S. Coast Guard has implemented something
similar to the Sea Marshall Program, where Coast Guard people
are on board the ferries monitoring the activities, some in
uniform, some not.
BC: Describe the extent of your
challenge, i.e., how many ships in the Port of Oakland every
year and so on.
About 1,850 ships visit the Port of Oakland
each year. As for the total number of containers, last year we
had 959,300 loaded and empty containers. The Port Authority
itself has roughly 640 employees, with many more working for
the 10 independent terminal operators renting space from us.
We have about 700 acres of container facilities and altogether
the waterfront that is in the Port area of jurisdiction is
about 19 miles long, all the way from the other side of the
Oakland Airport around through the estuary, all the way to the
north side to Emeryville.
from the bathroom wall of Oleís Waffle Shop in
Alameda, the following graffiti series:
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al o ha
al e son
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al I baba
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BC: Where do all these containers come
from and where are they going?
Because we have more outbound than inbound
traffic, there is a certain imbalance. See, generally ships
coming from Asia either go north to Seattle first, or go south
to Los Angeles/Long Beach first. Theyíll go to Los
Angeles/Long Beach because itís a huge consumption market.
Fifty percent of the containers that come into L.A. generally
stay within the area. And then 50 percent move onto the inland
points. The shipping lines want to go there first and they
want to dump as many containers as possible at the first port
they call on because that gets them onto the rail faster. It
moves them inland faster, cuts down the transportation time,
which is a big thing in the shipping industry.
Now the northwest doesnít have a very large consumption
market, but they have good rail service into the inland. The
reason the Port of Oakland has worked so hard to build new
facilities, including the new cranes youíve read so much
about, is because we need to match their rail facilities, also
known as intermodal facilities, to remain competitive.
BC: So Los Angeles/Long Beach Port is the
powerhouse port of the West Coast?
Well, in terms of container volume they are
sort of the 800 pound gorilla on the West Coast, handling
probably 65 percent of the container cargo moving inland.
California handles about 39 percent of the overall trade
coming into the U.S. from overseas. Oakland has about 12
BC: How did you get to be responsible for
Port of Oakland security issues?
Basically, Iím working on special projects
for the new maritime director who replaced me in the job.
Security issues came up just about the time that I stepped
down, so I was available and able to step in and work on
behalf of the Port on these issues under Jerry Bridges,
Director of Maritime at the Port of Oakland.
BC: Isnít there a kind of conflict
between the security needs, which can hold things up, and the
Portís need to keep cargo moving along in order to stay in
Youíre right that the objectives of
security can be at odds with the objectives of efficient and
productive cargo movement. But there are ways that you can do
it so that it is almost seamless. It may still slow things
occasionally, but not an unacceptable amount. And we just have
to do it.
BC: Is there as much cargo coming
arriving into the Port of Oakland as there is cargo being
Oakland is predominately an outbound port.
Because of Californiaís Central Valley, a lot of
agricultural products are shipped overseas. So, surprisingly,
about 60 percent of our volume is export from the United
States to overseas points and about 40% of the cargo we get in
is imports from overseas into the United States.
What we call captive cargo is generally cargo that is consumed
within the region, in our case up as far as Reno and Sparks,
and to a certain extent Salt Lake City. Interestingly, we
import a lot of the same things that we export. We export
fruits and vegetables and meats and things of that nature and
we import a lot of the same commodities. We get some Silicon
Valley type of materials. We get auto parts for NUMMI, the car
assembly plant in Fremont. We get beef from Australia and New
Zealand, lamb, things of that nature. And we also ship out
beef and raw cotton that comes back as finished products.
BC: Terminal operators operate fairly
autonomously from the Port of Oakland in the space they rent
from you. Are you satisfied that all these terminal operators
have made the grade in terms of these interim standards youíve
been talking about?
Itís a work in progress. I am satisfied
that there is a commitment, a recognition of the need to
improve the physical security, the need to identify who is on
the terminal and why, and the need to increase the general
security awareness of the people who work down there at the
terminal. And the management of the companies are committed to
that. Where they are in implementing the recommended
guidelines varies from terminal to terminal.
Itís not for lack of trying. The Port submitted eight grant
requests totaling $28 million. We received approval for three
of them for a total grant of about $4.8 million, enough to get
started with a video surveillance system at all of our
terminals to monitor the perimeter security of each terminal
and the water. Another project thatís a ďgoĒ is an
automated access control system where we will rebuild the
pedestrian gates to allow one-by- one access only, controlled
by some sort of card reader and a camera which will monitor
the process remotely. Oakland actually received one of the
largest shares of the total awarded to Ports, which speaks to
the recognition of the Port of Oaklandís position in the
BC: Isnít there a certain amount of
fatalism thatís called for here? I mean you can tighten this
place up as tight as a drum, make sure you know exactly who is
on your facility, but ultimately all these containers coming
in by the thousands and thousands, you canít control whatís
inside the containers, can you?
No, we canít. The only folks who really
know are the people who loaded the container and U.S. Customs
if they open the container. What our terminal operators
receive is documentation which says it contains, for example,
television sets and what U.S. Customs sees is a manifest which
says this container contains television sets. The manifests
are run through a very comprehensive U.S. Customs threat
assessment computer model to select which containers get
physically inspected. They rely very heavily on their
computerized control system where they wonít tell exactly
what criteria they use, but they are only able to physically
inspect about 2 percent of the total containers moving through
the U.S. ports, though Customs is working very hard to
increase the number of containers they inspect. For example,
the Customs people at Oakland have recently deployed a mobile
x-ray system which allows them to increase the number of
containers checked if not physically opened. A second machine
will be delivered in the fall.
Customs also has a program that theyíve just implemented
thatís called Customs and Trade Partners Against Terrorism.
It was started in cooperation with major just-in-time shippers
who are concerned about delays in their commodities moving
from overseas points into the United States and the potential
impact it could have on their manufacturing and distribution
system. This program is being pushed with all of the shippers,
Target, Walmart, Walgreenís, etc. It is essentially a
partnership with Customs where the companies work to guarantee
the security of their trade network. They work with their
overseas suppliers, the people who stuff the containers at
overseas points. They set up security guidelines with their
trade partners, which Customs inspects and verifies.
And when they have that certification the container is likely
to move more quickly.
BC: Is this enough to guarantee that
someone canít slip something through in a container?
Itís only one step. The next element
related to that is how do you secure the container itself, to
make sure that the container is not opened in some way in
transit. We need to make sure that somebody canít open it
someplace and throw in a duffel bag which contains a dirty
bomb, or weapons or something. Or even that people donít get
into the container and hide in someway during the transit.
Technology type solutions are being explored, like tagging
containers with global positioning system devices. Also,
building a package that contains not only radiation detection,
but light detection that could tell when and if a container
has been opened. A lot of thought is going into securing the
integrity of the seal on containers. Do you go to electronic
seals, which may be $200-300 apiece instead of the $20 apiece
seals that are currently used by most of the shippers?
The focus is really that our first line of defense is the
overseas point. By the time it gets here, there is not a lot
that can be done. The idea is to catch it before it gets into
the container, make sure the container is sealed and then
monitor the integrity of the container throughout the shipping
process. And that is, I think, the best way to address the
cargo security issue.
Here in Oakland, we are working in a partnership Ė the U.S.
Coast Guard, U.S. Customs, regional law enforcement Task
Force, the Bay Pilots, our terminal operators and Labor Ė to
ensure the integrity of our facilities against a security