WASHINGTON – Anti-terrorism safeguards are so lax in seven countries that U.S. officials will now board and screen all ships that recently docked in those nations before allowing them to enter U.S. ports, the Coast Guard said Thursday.
It said Madagascar, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau, Albania and Nauru had failed to comply with the ISPS international maritime security standards imposed last year and therefore lacked effective anti-terrorism measures in their ports.
The Coast Guard also said that from May 23, all ships that dock in these states on one of their previous five stops would automatically be denied entry to the United States unless they take tough new security precautions, such as placing guards at all access points to the ship while in a blacklisted state.
While the countries on the list are fairly small on the global shipping map, the impact on vessels that have recently docked there could be large. Security boardings at sea or a denial of entry to the United States can trigger extremely costly delays, and perishable cargo can be lost.
Washington, fearing a seaborne attack by militant groups such as al-Qaida, has vowed to police strictly according to the ISPS rules that went into force on July 1, 2004, by turning away ships that are not security certified or by delaying ones that have called at “contaminated ports.”
About 200 ships call on the United States’ 361 ports every day.