FIGHTING DRUGS ON HIGH SEAS

The United States is promoting a set of practical proposals for the prevention of drug smuggling by commercial ships. The draft measure is likely to be adopted shortly by the United Nations' International Maritime Organization.

It has evolved from discussions originally intended to fight international terrorism. The talks began after the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro last October, which led to the death of a 69-year-old American Jewish passenger.The proposals developed by the London-based IMO are based on recommendations made by the United States and information provided by the UN's International Air Transport Association in Montreal. They are similar in many ways to those already adopted by IATA for the improvement of airport security worldwide.

"These measures are intended to enhance security at passenger terminals and on board ships in international voyages," explains a specialist spokesman for the IMO, which is concerned with shipping safety.

"They can be employed by governments, port authorities and administrators, shipowners, operators, masters and crews."

The IMO's guidelines for the prevention of drug smuggling are being developed with help from the Customs Cooperation Council and the International Chamber of Shipping. They will cover the following principal areas:

Measures for the prevention of drugs being smuggled on board ships and ways of improving their detection if they do get there;

Ways for discouraging seafarers from drug trafficking and drug abuse;

Education and training related to the risks posed by drugs;

Action to be taken by ship operators and their employees when concealed drugs are discovered; and

Information about the types, nature and characteristics of the drugs most commonly smuggled.

In addition, the anti-terror measures would impose minimum safety rules for cruise vessels including passenger security checks at embarkation. The IMO also proposes warning travelers against using unsafe cruise lines.

The IMO proposals are now under consideration by the member governments of the organization. They are expected to be finalized during a London conference shortly.

UN organizations were asked by the General Assembly last December to seek ways of improving transport security in the face of increasing international organized crime, including drug smuggling and terrorism.

IATA has just concluded its security review. Its new measures include fresh controls on the movement of catering and cleaning staff who have access to aircraft and can smuggle drugs and weapons and plant explosives on behalf of their paymasters.

Unaccompanied baggage is to be subject to stringent security checks. New, high-technology requipment for the identification of drugs, guns and explosives are to be installed at selected airports immediately.

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