Global Financial Integrity

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Emerging Threats to Cargo and Port Security

The 2021 Public-Private Analytic Exchange Program (AEP) Emerging Threats to Cargo and Port Security Team (hereafter referred to as “the team”) conducted research and analysis in an effort to identify critical risk areas within the cargo and port security sector. The team incorporated both government and private industry perspectives in developing and refining its assessment. Given the widely dispersed geographic nature of the cargo and port security realm, and the broad regional diversity of cargo and port security needs, the team chose to focus its efforts on a single, nationally significant subcomponent of the cargo and port security topic: drug trafficking.

During the team’s exploratory research, drug trafficking organization (DTO) activities and maritime port security continually emerged as key areas of concern for most community stakeholders. Consequently, the following study is focused on threats posed by DTOs and their use of maritime ports to facilitate smuggling activities. Additionally, rather than focus on individual DTOs or specific drugs, the team chose to pursue a holistic approach aimed at analyzing DTO activities as a national level threat vector in order to provide a practical risk assessment to identify those United States ports at greater risk of criminal exploitation.

In an effort to address the lack of an extensive, national-level assessment regarding DTO activities at maritime ports, the team formulated a comprehensive, purpose-built, risk-based prioritization tool, which can be used to inform the allocation of critical security resources to U.S. maritime port facilities across the country. Additionally, the team developed an informational Slicksheet product to complement its risk assessment and be a resource for port security personnel and managers. Combined, this practical approach provides maritime port security stakeholders with a data-driven and actionable methodology for identifying risk and prioritizing resources to detect, deter, and mitigate DTO threats to their specific facilities.