A fascinating paper
technology could dramatically reduce the threat of a terrorist attack on U.S. ports.
The United States has a major cargo inspection problem of size, location, and time. Regarding size: 95 percent of all cargo entering the country passes through one of the nation’s 351 ports; 95 percent of that cargo goes unchecked; and of the 8,000 foreign commercial vessels that make 60,000 annual port calls, the vast majority gain unabated access to U.S. soil. The size of the problem increases dramatically over time: port cargo volume is expected to double by 2025. The United States cannot securely handle the sheer volume of port calls, something not lost on enemies who have been unable to strike the U.S. homeland for almost four years now.
The location problem is twofold, and worse. First, the instant foreign vessels reach a port of call, they are potential weapons of mass destruction (WMD) shell casings for harbor-detonated nuclear weapons. There is currently no effective process to confirm that a ship is not a weapon. Second, even if all incoming ships and cargo were inspected, it would not matter because a WMD has already accomplished its mission. Currently, high risk cargo is either inspected at the port or, incredibly, driven to an inspection location one to fifteen miles inland. A potential weapon of mass destruction is thus unobstructed in its delivery inside the country, and even when identified as dangerous cargo, loses none of its destructive potential.
Time is the ultimate trade-off in the cargo and port security problem. Not acting quickly to fix the problem will result in devastating consequences. Maritime transportation experts warn that the current global ports system can and will be exploited by terrorists with ships or containers filled with explosive and/or nuclear devices—it is just a matter of when and where such attacks will occur. The consequences of just one such attack are estimated to run as high as $1 trillion in economic costs and are immeasurable in human costs.
But how to get it funded? Without an actual terrorist attack, the political will to fund the deployment of floating ports is unlikely to be sufficient.
Hmmm...how big could you make a smoke bomb? Could you make it big enough that the smoke would engulf an entire city? Suppose you could build such a smoke bomb. And suppose that you loaded a container with said bomb, then set it off in a major port. The smoke would cause a panic, and probably some people would die. But many fewer people would die than if a real bomb went off. And it might provide enough political will to finance floating ports so that a much larger percentage of containers could be screened.
As a side effect, the government would finance the development of floating port technology, which could then be repurposed for seasteads
. Thus the government would fund the mechanism of its own eventual destruction.
Good thing I'm not dying of cancer.
Ha, ha, ha, Mr. Homeland Security Agent! Just some black humor here. Please don't put me on the no-fly list.