Study: Ship security system has “grave shortcomings”

A recent academic report from Singapore said there are "grave shortcomings" with ship security alert systems "which, if not corrected, will leave a critical loophole open for terrorists to easily exploit."

The report, The Use of SOLAS Ship Security Alert System, was released by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. It said the state of the system poses risks for coastal populations from terrorist threats.

This is because the systems that are to be used by ships' crew to alert government authorities of imminent terrorist threats will not alert anyone near the ship when danger is about to strike," author Thomas Timlen wrote. "Instead, the information is sent potentially thousands of miles away to the ship owner, who often must verify the alert before advising the socalled `flag state' of the ship. The flag state then must consider if and how to notify the coastal state where the ship is located. By the time that happens, the terrorist attack would probably already have been completed, with devastating consequences."

Timlen said he is expecting the International Maritime Organization to examine the issue.

Initial feedback from ship owners and ship owners' associations has been positive," he said. "Many agree that corrective steps must be taken. The vital question is whether anything will be done at the International Maritime Organization in London. The IMO's Maritime Safety Committee meets this May, which will be the first opportunity for the organization to discuss the issue.

The main conclusion of the study was not anticipated when I began this project, however as the work progressed it became clear that if ship security alert systems are to have any remote chance of preventing acts of terrorism, something must be done to expedite the engagement of the responders, particularly if the compromised ship is near a populated andor vulnerable area. The establishment of regional andor international response coordinators may help to achieve this, however, enabling the ship security alert system to contact the responders directly would be even better."

The full report is available at:

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