The just announced and planned river port on the Mississippi River at Cairo, Illinois will be completed in 2023. At that time the port will become a new central axis in American inland shipping security framework.
In modern America, inland river and coastal ports will be under new major conflicts from terrorists as well as from severe and extreme weather events.
Supply chain issues for goods and services flowing in and out of America are assuming major importance as security of goods is a vital part of American culture.
Port security has emerged as a significant part of the US Government debate on U.S. homeland security. The primary issues for Congress and states are (1) how to fund and structure needed local port development (2) designing new commitments to maintaining safe and secure maritime shipping from and into American ports.
The primary inland rivers of the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland Rivers, all conniver at Cairo, Ill. into a wide and deep Mississippi River. This geographical point is center to some 17 states watershed that comprise the expanded water flow of the Mississippi river.
National Maritime Profile
Cairo Port National Security Questions/Issues:
The U.S. maritime system consists of more than 300 sea and river ports with more than 3,700 cargo and passenger terminals. Most of the cargo transfers occur and are concentrated at fewer than 20 major ports.
These ports are the first point of contact with American trade centers. One of the great military and national security concern is that most of the crews manning these ocean-going ships are foreign. The ships are foreign owned with foreign crews. A great part of the supply chain by ocean travel is done with 40 ft. by 8 ft. metal containers. Some of these mega modern ships may be loaded with up to 15,000 containers.
This is now a major national security concern because these ships may become "weaponized" by terrorists. More than 10-12 million marine containers enter U.S. ports each year.
West Coast major ports are (1) Long Beach (2) San Francisco and Seattle.
East Coast major ports are (1) Boston, (2) New York, (3) Baltimore, (4) Norfolk (5) Charleston, (6) Savannah, (7) Jacksonville, and (8) Miami.
Gulf of Mexico major ports are (1) Tampa (2) Pensacola, (3) Mobile (4) New Orleans, and (5) Houston.
Cairo Port National Security Questions/Issues:
The US Homeland Security Agency reported in testimony to Congressional committees their fear of what a terrorist cell or strike force could do against US primary ports and other maritime shipping facilities.
Port Security Threat Scenarios
Security experts are concerned about a variety of terrorist threat scenarios at U.S. ports. Among other things, they are concerned that terrorists could:
01.use commercial cargo containers to smuggle terrorists, nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons, components thereof, or other dangerous materials into the United States;
- seize control of a large commercial cargo ship and use it as a collision weapon for destroying a bridge or refinery located on the waterfront;
- sink a large commercial cargo ship in a major shipping channel, thereby blocking all traffic to and from the port;
- attack a large ship carrying a volatile fuel (such as liquefied natural gas) and detonate the fuel so as to cause a massive in-port explosion;
- attack an oil tanker in a port or at an offshore discharge facility so as to disrupt the world oil trade and cause large-scale environmental damage;
- seize control of a ferry, which can carry hundreds of passengers, or a cruise ship, which can carry more than 3,000 passengers, of whom about 90% are usually U.S. citizens, and threaten the passengers if a demand is not met;
- attack U.S. Navy ships in an attempt to kill U.S. military personnel, damage or destroy a valuable U.S. military asset, and (in the case of nuclear-powered ships) cause a radiological release;
- use land around a port to stage attacks on bridges, refineries located on the waterfront, or other port facilities.
When completed in 2023, Cairo Port will be linked directly into the commerce and moving of goods out of and down to the Gulf Ports. The primary relationship to international maritime trade for Cairo Port will be the Port of New Orleans.
US Coast Guard, military units, and new low flying drones will become a part of the protection grid around Cairo Port. What is not protected will be the danger of bridges collapsing or being damaged by direct barge impacts.
As was the case of the bridge connecting Memphis to Arkansas last year, was closed due to a 10" crack appearing in the beams holding up the bridge.
Severe storms and heavy flooding may take out or compromise access by rail or truck to the new port.
All this to say that future Cairo port security will involve many threats. If for some reason, this port is compromised or destroyed, the entire shipping passage by water going south will stop.