Cruise ships could be terrorist targets

Report comes from US Homeland security

A new risk assessment by the Government
Accountability Office, United States Department of Homeland Security and the
Coast Guard has said that cruise ships may be a possible target for terrorist

Agency officials said there had not
been a credible threat to ships in the past 12 months, but noted a presence of
terrorist groups that had the capability to attack a cruise ship.

“The Coast Guard, cruise ship and
facility operators, and law enforcement officials generally believe waterside
attacks are a concern for cruise ships.

“Agency officials and terrorism
researchers also identified terrorists boarding a cruise ship as a concern. The
Coast Guard has also identified the potential consequences of an attack, which
would include potential loss of life and economic effects,” said the report.

Security enhanced

Cruise ship and facility operators,
federal agencies and law enforcement entities have taken various actions to
enhance security of cruise ships and their facilities, said the report.

The Customs and Border Protection
agency developed a strategic plan in 2005 that said it would seek to improve
identification and targeting of potential terrorists through automated advanced
information, in a system similar to that used in the aviation sector.

It has not yet assessed the costs
or benefits of requiring cruise lines to provide passenger reservation data.
The border protection agency noted that in the aviation mode it had proved useful
in terms of targeting passengers for possible inspection. Further reports will
be needed in order to assess the benefits, cost and privacy implications of
such a system, said the report.

Joseph Woods, manager of cruise
ship operations and security at the Port Authority of the Cayman
Islands, said that as a matter of policy the authority did not
comment publicly on matters of security.