By  on September 27, 2005

NEW YORK — The world's port officials have devoted the bulk of their resources to implementing and updating security measures at their facilities since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Four years later, with the effects of a natural disaster on the Gulf Coast fresh in their minds, developing systems that will ensure rapid response and recovery from an event has moved to the fore.

Speakers at the fourth annual Maritime Security Expo and Conference, which ran here from Sept. 20-21, said ensuring response and recovery will depend on ports looking beyond their new fence lines and engaging local, state, federal and even academic institutions.

"What we saw on 9/11 was our own infrastructure used against us," said James Woolsey, a vice president with global security consultant Booz Allen Hamilton and the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1993 to 1995, during remarks to open the conference.

"In a sense, what is pending off our shores is the type of warfare at seas and at our ports that relies on suicide," said Woolsey, comparing the situation to a street fight rather than a traditional military engagement. "We are no longer in the business of opposing enemy battle fleets."

Admiral Thomas Collins, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, stressed the need for improving what has been dubbed maritime domain awareness or knowledge of how global maritime activities could impact the U.S.

"We must have joint plans for prevention and response," said Collins, who views maritime domain awareness as one of the most critical elements to improving homeland security. "Quite frankly, we have considerable gaps in this area."

Collins pointed to the disjointed response by local, state and federal agencies to Hurricane Katrina as a glaring example for the need for better communication on all levels.

"Fragmented, stand-alone efforts make us neither safe nor protected," he said.

George Cummings, director of homeland security for the Port of Los Angeles, said the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been working with California's academic institutions, which have been involved in larger studies of homeland security. As the nation's largest port facility, Cummings said there was an acknowledgement that systems would need to be in place to evacuate not only the port, but the large residential areas adjacent to it.

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