Security found wanting at Canadian ports: senators

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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A Senate panel says Canada's ports need tougher sea-container screening, hundreds more police and a high-tech security pass system to prevent terrorists from sneaking a deadly weapon into the country.

The Senate security and defence committee said Thursday there are too many holes in the tattered port safety net to effectively scrutinize the four million containers that arrive annually by sea, almost one-third of them en route to the United States.

A Senate panel says Canada's ports need tougher sea-container screening, hundreds more police and a high-tech security pass system to prevent terrorists from sneaking a deadly weapon into the country.

The Senate security and defence committee said Thursday there are too many holes in the tattered port safety net to effectively scrutinize the four million containers that arrive annually by sea, almost one-third of them en route to the United States.

''Any one of these containers could contain chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive devices designed to lay waste to a large Canadian or U.S. target,'' says the 108-page report, evoking a 9-11-style attack.

''Is this probable? Perhaps not. But was it probable in 2001 that a bunch of terrorists would commandeer planes and fly them into buildings?''

Government and port officials bristled at the allegations of weak security, insisting great strides had been made in the last five years.

''It's not something that's been ignored,'' said Gary LeRoux, executive director of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, calling it the ''No. 1 issue.''

The senators, however, say organized crime, staff and equipment shortages, and a desire to ''do security on the cheap'' have left the country's 19 ports vulnerable to terrorist weapon-smuggling.

''We know that Canada's a target,'' Senator Colin Kenny, the committee chairman, told a news conference. ''And we know that this is a very likely way of getting something into the country.''

The report says on any given container ship there will be up to half a dozen ''ghost cans'' - undeclared containers with no indication of where they came from, or what's inside.

Pointing to a system in place in Hong Kong, the senators recommend every port be equipped with imaging machines that use penetrating gamma rays to inspect sea containers, as well as the staff to operate them round-the-clock.

The goal: ensure all containers, not just a sample, are scanned for the presence of a ''dirty bomb'' or other dangerous device.

LeRoux said it's ''impossible to have complete control of every item in the containers moving all around the world.''

The current security scheme is based on a risk-management system that zeroes in on suspicious containers - a targeted approach that mirrors the overall federal strategy on marine security.

Geographic location: Canada, United States, Port Authorities Hong Kong

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  • wayne
    January 18, 2010 - 10:30

    The Senators who came up with this report give all of us seniors a bad name.
    Most seniors are alot more intelligent then those who made this report. If I were a terrorist & had some evil gas/chemical in drums in a container - what would an xray prove?? If i had plastic explosives moulded into a piece of plastic furniture - what good would an xray do?? Its an impossible task.