Terrorism safety charge at port

SHIPPING companies using Felixstowe port are to face a security charge for every container to help pay for measures to fight terrorism.All ports have been told to step up security following the attack on the World Trade Centre amid fears that the shipping industry could be a major target.

SHIPPING companies using Felixstowe port are to face a security charge for every container to help pay for measures to fight terrorism.

All ports have been told to step up security following the attack on the World Trade Centre amid fears that the shipping industry could be a major target.

The biggest fear is that of a "dirty bomb" being hidden in a container – not a nuclear weapon but a conventional bomb able to spread biological or radioactive material over a wide area.

A number of measures have already been taken at Felixstowe, including having American customs officers based at the port to gather intelligence, and the use of


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remote radiological detection devices so all containers can be searched.

More armed police have been stationed at the port, too, to deal with any incidents and help investigative work.

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But the international shipping community is drawing up measures to tighten security further – including insisting that every port has a terrorism plan and a security officer.

In order to pay for extra measures Hutchison Ports has announced that it plans to impose an extra charge of £5.50 per container on exports and £10.50 on every imported container.

The new levy is set to come into force at Felixstowe from February 1.

But freight companies have criticised the new levy as "simply not acceptable" and say it should be charged directly to the shipping lines. The British International Freight Association believes it will create a horrendous extra workload for its members to deal with the levy.

The port company though believes the freight forwarders will simply pass the cost of the levy down the line to the shipping companies.

A government committee reported last year that Britain had not learned enough lessons from September 11 – and Prime Minister Tony Blair is now pushing for the shipping industry to bring in extra measures as soon as possible.

Security plans for ports and ships have to be ready by July so they can be assessed to see if they comply with new international codes and regulations.

There have been two instances at Felixstowe since September 11. One when weapons, including Semtex and mortar bombs, were smuggled inside a container and another when a suspected nuclear load turned out to be a small bolt which was contaminated.

Opinion – see page 6

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