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Sea Marshals of the Port of Los Angeles

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Today's Los Angeles Times reports on the Coast Guard's efforts to patrol our ports, protecting them from terrorist attacks.Armed teams of Coast Guard marshals board ships off the Southern California coast "six times a day, seven days a week at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which handle 45% of the nation's container cargo. Sea marshals board container vessels, oil tankers, cruise ships, even commuter boats as part of a nationwide Coast Guard program launched after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

For all the concern about safety at the nation's airports, counterterrorism officials and other experts say the nation's ports may now present an even greater threat. Since Sept. 11, they have received far less security funding than airports, yet they continue to process far more cargo — more than 9.5 million containers a year."

The article reveals some impressive facts about our region's role in the world economy:

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1. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are gateways for nearly half of the containerized goods that enter the U.S.

2. Alone the Long Beach or Los Angeles ports would be the largest in the U.S. Together, they handle more than 1 million cruise passengers and $200 billion in trade annually, including half the petroleum products used in the Western U.S.

According to the article, the vast majority of incoming cargo is considered secure because huge corporations and international shippers have instituted their own safety checks and inspections.

The Times notes, "The government estimates that about 40% of cargo heading for the U.S. is shipped by about 7,000 businesses worldwide that are cooperating with U.S. authorities to improve defenses against terrorists.

That leaves Homeland Security officials concentrating on the pieces of the supply chain that would be easiest for extremists to exploit."

Homeland Security teams collect electronic manifests from all US-bound cargo and prioritize which to track based on info provided from huge corporations and international shippers who never, ever fudge the truth and always fill out their forms correctly...We hope the Department of Homeland Security's statistical analyses are correct or else we are all at risk.