President Bush recently signed into law H.R. 802, the Maritime Pollution Prevention Act of 2008. Signing this important act into law is a good thing. It implements Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from the ships operating along our coasts.
As a prior maritime investigator, I saw many times when vessels would dump their bilges into the sea rather that process the oil through an oily-water separator. The result: An oil sheen in the water and a damaged eco-system complete with dead fish and birds. Fortunately, new technologies make it easier to prosecute those that pollute. It doesn’t stop the practice; the culprits are just easier to locate. When part of an environmental task force in the San Francisco Bay area years ago, I saw the US Attorney finally begin to crack down on violators.
While this new legislation is a proactive move, there is still a large gap impacting our environment and global economy: Ballast Water. In the book “Terrorism and the Maritime Transportation System,” an entire chapter is dedicated to this issue. Few people are aware of the national and global consequences of disregarding the ballast water issue.
Certainly, some will ask how ballast water has anything to do with terrorism. That's a fair question. As an example, during a test of 15 ships in the Chesapeake Bay area, each of the 15 ships had ballast tanks with positive indications of cholera. The book continues to describe one town in the US that was virtually shut down for two days because of non-indigenous species resulting from ballast water. Intake lines feeding the power plant were clogged shut.
Foreign species introduced into our nations’ waters are costly, cause health issues and may impact the cooling systems to nuclear plants. Terrorist elements are interested in hurting the US and free western allies. At a time when the economy is on the forefront, the possibility exists to use this vehicle to impact our economy. In some ways that can be just as costly as a bomb.
While the Maritime Pollution Prevention Act of 2008 is a good thing, we need to look at the big picture.
Anthony M. Davis
Bestselling Author: "Terrorism and the Maritime Transportation System"