In order to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of terrorists, the international community needs to make full and determined use of all the instruments available to it. Shoring up multilateral arms control and non-proliferation instruments is a vital part of the broader efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. It is our first line of defense. Several of these treaties, notably the NPT and CTBT, have been under pressure of late. From this perspective, next year’s NPT review conference will be exceptionally important.
But clearly we also need principles for practical cooperation and the promotion of best practices. From this perspective the PSI (Proliferation Security Initiative) fills a critical gap in our inventory of non-proliferation measures.
Maritime trade accounts for 90 % of the world total. Most of the ships involved are owned and operated by private, commercial shipping companies. It goes without saying that global shipping activities are critical in addressing many of the challenges related to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. As a significant flag state, and as an active participant in the Proliferation Security Initiative, Norway is committed to making every effort to ensure that weapons or materials of mass destruction are not carried on Norwegian registered ships.
The shipping industry can make an important contribution to global counter-proliferation efforts through their participation in international shipping organizations. But the shipping companies and individual ship masters need information in order to get a sufficiently clear understanding of the concerns of the authorities. The latter, for their part, need to understand the practical and financial constraints under which the shipping companies operate. Hence, governments and the shipping industry should together seek pragmatic and efficient ways of addressing proliferation concerns, with as little interference as possible in the day-to-day operations of the ships and the shipping companies.
Governments need to identify the best ways and mechanisms to engage the shipping industry in a dialogue, and get it actively involved in prevention activities. It is important to raise the shipping industry’s awareness of proliferation problems and concerns. We should keep in mind that in most cases involving cargos of proliferation concern, the operator of the ship, as well as the shipping company involved, had no knowledge of the proliferation activity, and were thus unwitting participants in the proliferation activity.
The Norwegian Shipowners’ Association is a well-established and well-tested channel for two-way communication between Norwegian government agencies and the Norwegian shipping industry. The Norwegian authorities finance a Contingency Planning Section in the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association. Through the Shipowners’ Association, vital information related to proliferation concerns can be circulated rapidly by telefax or email to shipping companies and ship masters.
The Shipowners’ Association furthermore is represented in the inter-agency contact group that coordinates Norway’s implementation of the objectives of the Proliferation Security Initiative. The Shipowners’ Association also collects information from non-Norwegian sources, such as military commanders, and passes it on to its members. Correspondingly, information from ships and shipping companies is reported to the Shipowners’ Association, and thereafter made available to the government. The Shipowners’ Association can serve as a “point of contact” between the authorities and the shipping industry in interdiction cases.
There is a great deal of understanding in the shipping industry for the dangers relating to proliferation, and for the need to meet the concerns of governments in that respect. At the same time, the shipping industry has a legitimate need to avoid cumbersome procedures that cause delays and additional costs. However, I am confident that the industry would welcome procedures or mechanisms that can help reduce the risk of shipping companies becoming unwitting participants in proliferation activities.
One possibility is the development of model basic principles or procedures for the conduct of search & boarding operations. Another possibility is development of model partnership agreements that could be concluded between national authorities and shipping companies and their operators. Such partnership agreements could possibly also complement the bilateral boarding agreements that are being negotiated between some countries.
Perhaps we could be inspired by the so-called “Sea Carrier Initiative”, launched by the U.S. customs authorities a few years ago to combat drug smuggling. The “Sea Carrier Initiative”, in short, lets shipping companies commit themselves to a degree of self-policing, in return for faster processing and reduced inspections. A similar approach is used under the “Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism” (C-TPAT), launched by the U.S. Customs in April 2002. These programs focus on partnership between the private sector and the national authorities, with an emphasis on security practices, self-policing and the fight against, respectively, drugs and terrorism.
Also in contingency planning, ship security has become of vital importance. Piracy is a serious and growing threat to commercial shipping in many waters. The number of world-wide incidents and attacks against ships reported by the IMO has increased from less than one hundred in the early nineties to more than four hundred in the most recent reports. This is, of course, not directly related to the PSI.
However, a new and troubling development is that some terrorist groups apparently engage in piracy as a way of financing terrorist activities. It is well known that a number of international terrorist groups cooperate. Some of them also share ideology and sources of financing.
Piracy for terrorist purposes increases the risk that sensitive cargo could fall into the wrong hands, or that the proceeds of such attacks are used to finance proliferation efforts. Another very chilling, and unfortunately not unrealistic possibility, is that a ship could be hijacked, and a weapon of mass destruction could be placed on board, after which the ship could be used in a terrorist attack on a big city or a major facility. If this were to happen, enormous damage and loss of life could ensue.
We therefore believe that non-proliferation activities in waters where attacks on ships take place could be helpful in reducing the risk of proliferation. A welcome side effect for the shipping industry would be a reduction in piracy incidents. Many of the tools and methods that are applied in the fight against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, are also applicable in the fight against terrorism and piracy.
We therefore believe that there is merit in discussing how the objectives of the PSI could be attained through PSI activities aimed at severing the ties between pirates and international terrorists.
These are some of the issues on which we need to focus in the next stage of our work. We look forward to pursuing them further in close dialogue with our PSI partners.