Past Paranoia

Yet more Wikileaks revelations concerning maritime security have emerged. This time round the focus has been on the United States and past concerns over certain ferry routes.

The report has drawn particular attention to the risks associated with Finnish transportation security. The Wikileaks document claims that ferry passengers, as well as shipping containers sent to the US, are rarely checked. Authorities say port and ferry security have since been improved upon.

Thousands of people and various goods travel to and from Finland on the Sweden and Tallinn ferries daily. US embassy has reflected on the terrorism-related risks present in that arrangement.

A diplomatic cable dating from 2005 says that ferry passengers on these busy routes and their luggage are rarely, if ever, checked. These concerns are known to the Maritime Safety Director Tuomas Routa from the Finnish Transport Safety Agency.

Also around this time a major security scare was triggered in Helsinki, as creditable intelligence pointed to the fact that a bomb was going to be shipped in a truck carried by ferry from Estonia to Finland.

This caused immense concern and highlighted the problems faced by many ferry operators. Most ferry routes are driven by high passenger and cargo volumes, and by fast turnarounds. As such, much of the trade depends on speed and security is often compromised to accommodate commercial concerns.

“This American comment is from the year 2005. Now it’s already 2011, and in these six years new technology and a new system for organising things have appeared.”

Port security has also been increased in other areas.

The diplomatic cable expresses the hopes that Finland will improve scanning of cargo destined for the United States. Tuomas Routa says that Finnish preparedness in this instance has also become better.

The aim expressed in the cable was that, by the end of 2012, all cargo arriving into Finland would be scanned. This naturally required large investments in ports.

According to the Finnish authorities, the US has extended that deadline at least until 2014. The Finnish Customs estimate that Finland is not planning to particularly hurry in fulfilling these requirements.

“These regulations have been discussed for years. The matter lies chiefly between the EU and the US. The Finnish Customs have plenty of other things to take care of,” says Erik Dannbäck of the National Board of Customs Southern District Office.

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