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Tighter security for cargo shippers after 9/11

Tug boats work the waters in the Port of Los Angeles June 13, 2007 in San Pedro, Calif.

Jeremy Hobson: All this week, we've been looking at how the 9/11 terror attacks have changed business and the economy.

Before the attacks, the biggest security concern
for cargo shippers was theft. That's obviously not the case anymore. Companies that ship around the world have developed new systems to better detect threats, and inspect billions of tons of goods every day.

Marketplace's Eve Troeh reports.


Eve Troeh: Everything about the Port of Los Angeles is larger than life. But for each cargo ship that looms like a skyscraper, there's now a tiny vessel tethered alongside.

Ron Boyd: That's one of the our port police boats.

Ron Boyd is police chief at the port. He says since 9/11, police, Coast Guard and other agencies tag along with cargo on the water. When the huge metal containers get plucked off the ships, more checks. Some for suspicious cargo, others random. They don't look at everything, but they're looking much more closely.

Boyd: They're going to go through with the x-ray machine, and look at those containers intrinsically. They'll be able to tell if there's a small handgun in there.

There being a densely packed 40-foot container. Security scans for invisible threats, too, like radiation. Port executive director John Holmes says there's been a big post-9/11 learning curve.

John Holmes: There are a lot of products that give off radiation that are not dangerous: kitty litter, bananas, ceramics.

But the most precious cargo is actually people -- the tens of thousands of passengers who board cruise ships at ports. Since 9/11, scuba divers check cruise ship hulls for bombs. Sea marshals ride along with some partying passengers.

Police chief Boyd says sea ports are not like airports. Here, the public doesn't see the added security.

Boyd: Folks who are here for vacation, they don't necessarily want to see a heavy sense of security. So it is a little bit of a difference.

All the new security has cost millions. The huge scanning machines, new boats, hundreds of hidden cameras. Not to mention more workers on the payroll, says port executive John Holmes.

Holmes: The port has created hundreds and hundreds of jobs in this area of security.

Some ports charge new fees to pay for it, or they've upped the rent for clients.

Holmes: In the new normal, that's the cost of doing business.

It's a cost that's here to stay.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

Hobson: And you can find all of our stories about how 9/11 has changed business and the economy in the 9/11 Legacy section of our website.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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