July 20, 2004

Australia boosts maritime security spending

Australian Prime Minister John Howard today announced that Australia's maritime security will be further strengthened by a series of measures worth A$102 million (US$74.7 million) over four years.

Howard said the strengthening follows a review of current policy after comprehensive threat assessment prepared by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO).

"The ASIO assessment," said Howard, "pointed to the fact that Al Qaeda and associated groups continue to have a capacity to carry out terrorist attacks, including against maritime interests."

The enhanced maritime security measures include:

  • an additional A$48 million (US$35 million) over four years to increase the rate of container examination at the Australian Customs Service (Customs) container x-ray facilities in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle;
  • enabling Customs to board more vessels at the first port of arrival in Australia at a cost of a further A$9.3 million (US$6.8 million). This will include more random checks so that any ship entering any port can expect to be boarded;
  • extending the Customs closed circuit television network from the current 32 ports to 63 Customs proclaimed ports at a cost of A$17 million (US$12.45 million) over four years;
  • posting specialist immigration officials to ports to assist with border control at a cost of A$12.3 million (US$9 million) over four years;
  • amending the Migration Act to allow passengers on round trip cruises to be more easily checked should that be deemed necessary in future; and

The government also will:

  • review security arrangements for Australia's offshore oil and gas facilities and assets through the establishment of a dedicated taskforce within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The taskforce will also consider Australian Government capabilities and protocols for interdicting ships and other vessels at sea;
  • introduce a maritime security identification card for maritime industry employees, following consultation with interested parties;
  • provide additional resources to further strengthen intelligence collection and the provision of intelligence information within key ports;
  • provide an additional $4.4 million to allow the Transport Security Operations Center within the Department of Transport and Regional Services to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week;
  • undertake a detailed examination of security arrangements for transporting high-consequence dangerous goods;
  • provide additional limited powers for privately engaged maritime security guards to enable them to respond with appropriate authority to any deliberate breaches of maritime security zones within and near to ports,

The review also examined the shared responsibilities of the state and territory governments and industry, noting that port owners and operators are responsible for providing preventive security within ports.

The review also noted the important role of state and territory police forces in providing first response capabilities at and near to ports within their respective jurisdictions. The shared responsibilities between the Australian Government and the state and territory governments are coordinated through the National Counter-Terrorism Committee (NCTC).

For more details of the maritime security enhancements go to http://www.dotars.gov.au/transsec/index.aspx

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