This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 RABAT 000563
DHS FOR DIXIE FARIES STATE FOR INL/AAE ELIZABETH MCKAY AND PETE PRAHAR STATE ALSO FOR EB/TRA/OTP DORIS HAYWOOD AND NEA/MAG MADRID FOR STEPHEN PEREZ LONDON FOR USIMO
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: EWWT ETRD ECON PTER PREL PINS PINR MO SUBJECT: MOROCCO: PORT SECURITY IN OUR TIME?
REF: A) RABAT 0485, B) 04 RABAT 1211
1. (U) Summary: Morocco is taking its port security obligations seriously, and efforts are underway at ports nationwide to bring security infrastructure up to the level required by the International Maritime Organization's ISPS port security code. Observation at several Atlantic ports confirm that Moroccan port authorities are constructing guarded barriers around the commercial cargo sections of international ports and installing millions of dollars worth of cargo and passenger scanning equipment. Most of these endeavors will be finished this summer. But the GOM still has gaps to fill in its port defenses (literally in some cases), especially in the area of personnel access control. The GOM has asked for assistance from the United States in creating a badging system that will allow police to effectively screen people entering and exiting port facilities (Ref A). Corruption among port security guards may also be a problem. End Summary.
2. (U) A glance at the map shows the importance of ports to the Moroccan economy. Surrounded by the sea to the north and west, with the 1,000-mile closed land border with Algeria to the east and the sands of the Sahara to the south, Morocco is - commercially - almost an island. As a consequence, a full 98 percent of Moroccan trade passes through its sea ports.
3. (U) Econoff and FSN traveled to central and southern Morocco to visit three of the country's principal Atlantic coast ports: Jorf Lasfar, Safi and Agadir. These three ports, in addition to Casablanca, handle the lion's share of international cargo traffic as well as the country's largest fishing fleets. Managerial responsibility over these ports is shared between the Port Commandant, in charge of security and safety as well as overall command of shipping operations; and the Office of Ports Exploitation (ODEP), which runs port commercial operations on behalf of the state. ODEP, which is slated for a major reorganization under a bill currently in parliament (septel), finances the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) ISPS upgrades underway in Morocco.
Jorf Lasfar - Port of Yellow Cliffs
4. (U) The industrial port of Jorf Lasfar (Yellow Cliffs in Arabic) was built in 1974 to handle traffic to and from a nearby coal-fired energy plant and an adjacent phosphates plant owned by national phosphates firm OCP. Commercial operations began in 1982, when the port moved 64,000 tons of cargo; in 2005, 12 million tons will transit the port's 14 quays, making Jorf Lasfar the second largest port in Morocco by volume after Casablanca.
5. (SBU) The Jorf Lasfar port is enclosed by a 10-foot barbed fence that surrounds the fishing port, administrative buildings and international commercial quays. To meet IMO ISPS requirements, the international cargo section was walled off from the rest of the port in January 2005 by an eight-foot cement wall topped by two feet of concertina wire. Port authorities have also closed off each individual quay with controlled access barriers staffed by private security hired by the individual pier operators.
6. (SBU) Jorf Lasfar Commandant Mohamed Hamzaoui told Econoff the ISPS Code is "80 percent implemented," pending the completion of a second entry gate under construction roughly 100 meters past the first gate where the commercial port begins. Hamzaoui expects the second gate to be finished by the end of April 2005. He said the only other pending action is to sign a contract on a tender issued in early March for a roving security force that will patrol 24 hours a day within the port.
It's Okay, We Have Another Gate
7. (SBU) Jorf Lasfar is relatively easy to secure in that is located 20 km from the nearest sizable town, physically separated from any inhabited areas by a high yellow cliff, and has a relatively small fishing section attached to it, minimizing the flow of pedestrians in and around port facilities. In spite of this, gaps remain. The main gate is tightly controlled for identification, but there is no badge system or database for comparing IDs. Econoff noticed a 20-foot section of fencing near the main gate was broken and lying on the ground. Econoff pointed this out to Port Commandant Hamzaoui, who at first professed ignorance of the gap and then barked at an assistant to find out when it would be fixed. The assistant reported that maintenance crews knew about the breach and money had been budgeted to repair it. "Anyway," Hamzaoui said, "the broken section of fence doesn't really matter - we are building the second line of defense [the second guarded gate] past that point." Econoff pointed out that with such a large gap in the fence the "second" gate would really serve as the "first" line of defense, to no response.
8. (U) A weather-worn industrial town of 300,000 on Morocco's central coast, Safi was once home to the world's largest sardine fishing fleet. The fourth largest Moroccan port in terms of volume, Safi suffers from aging infrastructure and its proximity to the city itself. Shantytowns completely surround one side of the port, and the fishing terminal, with its 1,300 artisinal boats, is virtually part of the medina, or old city, of Safi.
9. (SBU) To close off this section of the port to the public would be political suicide in a town which has survived - and until the 1980's, thrived - on fishing. Managers instead chose to leave the artisinal fishing port open to the public, and in order to satisfy ISPS requirements, walled off the international cargo section with a 10-foot cement barrier that effectively sections off the still-pubic fishing port from the quays that handle international commercial traffic.
10. (SBU) Since work on ISPS upgrades began in 2003, ODEP has spent over $620,000 on physical infrastructure and lighting in Safi port. Operators have upgraded perimeter fencing, built a small police post inside the port, and mounted new lighting inside and around the perimeter. New customs and police buildings have been constructed just outside the main gate, which will be inaugurated later this year. The port authority has purchased five video surveillance cameras which - by June 2005 - will be positioned around the exterior of the commercial section of the port and monitored from a central location in the police office within the port's main gate.
11. (SBU) In January 2005 the port authority installed 48, 800-watt lights along the length of the main jetty at Safi. Eight guard houses were positioned within and around the international cargo docks and are manned 24 hours a day. Port Commandant Abderrahim Houir Alami has ordered that three huge ammonia storage tanks, used to hold imported ammonia destined for Safi's OCP phosphates plant on the far side of town, be kept minimally stocked, for security reasons brought to his attention by the ISPS Code.
12. (SBU) An access road encircling the north side of the port was widened in November 2004, and 60-foot lighting towers added around the exterior. Previously the road was a dark and muddy lane that attracted a shady collection of characters. Now the widened road and the high-intensity lights have converted the area into a place less conducive to illicit activity and easier to surveil.
13. (SBU) However, security at Safi is not air-tight. The external wall surrounding the port complex is a 12-foot cement pillared fence, difficult to climb but easy to pass things through. Econoff witnessed people passing things through the gaps in the pillars, and, while touring the port with port managers, saw a construction worker scale the wall. Port Commandant Houir Alami conceded that the wall was not infallible, but said police patrols and the surveillance cameras soon to be installed would prevent people from sneaking in. Finally, pedestrians continue to walk freely in and out of the fishing section of Safi port today. Vehicles are checked, but port authorities' claim that pedestrians are not checked because they are "known" to police officials manning the front gate is not credible.
14. (U) The modern and well-organized port of Agadir sits at the bottom of a hill separating it from the rest of the city. A military post commands a perfect view down onto the port installations. The port is divided into four sections: a shipyard, a large fishing port, a pleasure harbor for yachts and cruise ships, and the commercial port.
15. (SBU) A 12-foot perimeter wall surrounds the entire port complex, with just one entry gate guarded by police and customs officers. The busy fishing port is essentially a public place, with no effective system of access or identification control. Cars and mopeds are stopped for identification, but there was no list or database for cross- check of IDs, and pedestrians are allowed to pass unhindered. ODEP Director Driss El Hidani said the police don't ask for ID because they know everyone by sight, but considering the volume of foot traffic flowing through the gates, this is unlikely.
16. (SBU) To bring Agadir up to ISPS standards, in January 2005 authorities walled off the international commercial section from the rest of the port with an eight-foot cement wall covered with metal barbs. The new wall surrounding Agadir's commercial port stands in sharp contrast with observations made by Econcouns during a July 2004 visit (Ref B). There is additional fencing with individual ID checkpoints surrounding the petroleum terminal and the cargo storage facility. A team of police, customs and ODEP officers conduct roving patrols inside the port 24 hours a day.
17. (SBU) A multi-million dollar Chinese-made cargo scanner will arrive in Agadir in April and be installed by end of May (Ref A). It will be used by customs officials to examine both incoming and outgoing container traffic on an ad hoc percentage basis according to the existing threat level. Agadir has already received three other scanning units: a baggage scanner, a walk-through metal detector for passengers, and an itemizer that will be used to sweep suspicious items for explosives and drugs. This equipment will be installed when the second entry post is completed, and will be operated by the local police. When the port is in category I (normal) status, the scanners will be used on an ad hoc basis. When the port or an arriving ship are elevated to category II (alert) status, all passengers and baggage will be checked. ODEP uses movable cement barriers and empty cargo containers to build additional temporary enclosures on an ad hoc basis around ships that arrive in an elevated security posture (sensitive cargo, passengers or destinations).
18. (SBU) ODEP director El Hidani told Econoff the new ISPS requirements have done him a great service. Before ISPS implementation began the port had troubles with stowaways, theft and misplaced cargo due to the flow of people milling freely inside the international section. The mandate that came with the ISPS Code (and the state money to implement it) has solved many of these problems.
Emigrants, not Dirty Bombs
19. (SBU) Port authorities in Jorf Lasfar and Safi - ports which handle little or no containerized traffic - confided to Econoff that their greatest security concern is preventing illegal emigrants from boarding ships as stowaways, not the export of dangerous materials for use in international terrorism. There is a fairly significant stowaway problem from Moroccan ports, mostly Moroccans and sub-Saharan Africans seeking passage to European ports of call. Seven would-be emigrants were detected in Safi last year, and Jorf Lasfar Commandant Hamzaoui told Econoff one or two stowaways are caught trying to board through his port each month.
20. (SBU) The stowaway problem proves that Morocco's ports are not air-tight. Port authorities spoke at length of the infallibility of the exterior fences surrounding their ports, and did not seem to appreciate (or accept) the obvious contradiction between their claims of an airtight system and the regular discovery of stowaways in port.
21. (SBU) Since the fences are for the most part in good shape - with the exception of a small section near the police post in Jorf Lasfar - any stowaway activity would either be the result of corruption among security forces guarding the exterior, or human error. Port authorities refused to concede that security services would intentionally allow people to pass on a systemic basis, but did acknowledge that occasional opportunistic corruption may occur.
How We Can Help
22. (SBU) Moroccan port authorities clearly understand the requirements of the IMO's ISPS Code and have made great efforts to comply with them. ISPS is not just a paper exercise between Rabat and the IMO, and coordination between local port committees and administrators in Rabat is excellent. Even the Wali (governor) of the province of Safi, several times removed from the process of ISPS implementation, demonstrated in a meeting with Econoff that he was aware in intricate detail of what was required of Safi and Jorf Lasfar ports and the status of the works underway.
23. (SBU) Port authorities say the ISPS upgrades have helped them control theft and deter stowaways. They seem to have significant funding, as evidenced by the recent purchase of several million dollars worth of scanning equipment and the upgrades in fencing, gates and other physical infrastructure Econoff witnessed at the ports of Jorf Lasfar, Safi and Agadir. And despite the "don't worry we have a second gate" approach to the ISPS Code taken by the commandant at Jorf Lasfar, the vast majority of Moroccan authorities get the message on port security.
24. (SBU) What remains is to create a solid system for personnel access control, and to train security personnel to use it. The creation of an ID or badging system is essential, and training in perimeter control would also be useful. As any system is only as good as the people operating it, anti-corruption training would be a good complement. Post will work with port authorities to explore ways we may be able to assist.