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SERVICES 
Saturday, 22 December, 2001, 10:35 GMT
Twenty ships 'under surveillance'
Anti-terror officers stopped the cargo ship at 0800GMT
MV Nisha was pursued by the Royal Navy
Intelligence services are monitoring the movements of 20 ships in the wake of the 11 September terror attacks, a shipping union claimed on Saturday.

Andrew Linington, head of communications at the National Union of Marine Aviation and Shipping Transport Officers, said the shipping industry was particularly vulnerable to terrorism.

He warned it was "frighteningly easy" for terrorists to use the sea as a means of transporting their weaponry and ammunition, and said the international community was not dealing with the threat adequately.


Certainly it was very clear that an al-Qaeda ship carried ammunition to Kenya to blow up the US embassy in Kenya

Andrew Linington

Mr Linington made the comments as anti-terrorist officers continued their search of the cargo ship MV Nisha moored off the Isle of Wight.

He said he was glad the London-bound ship had been intercepted because it showed a recognition that there was something to be concerned about.

There was "no doubt" that Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network had been using ships to transport materials.

And he said there had been a 10-fold rise in piracy and armed attacks on shipping over the last decade.

'Corruption'

"We know that intelligence services are looking at at least 20 ships at the moment," said Mr Linington.

"Certainly it was very clear that an al-Qaeda ship carried ammunition to Kenya to blow up the US embassy in Kenya."

Mr Linington said: "It is frighteningly easy and certainly it is something we have been raising concern about since September 11, repeatedly."

"A lot of the industry itself is based on quite a lot of corruption and deceit. A lot of it relies on the flag of convenience system which is, in itself, based on a curtain of secrecy that fosters anonymity and allows unscrupulous operators," he added.

'Pathetic'

The International Maritime Organisation was responsible for shipping and was undertaking an urgent review of security, Mr Linington said.

But the response to this by the IMO's member states was "pathetic" and fewer than 60 countries had ratified an agreement drawn up after a cruise ship was hi-jacked in 1985.

"You have over six million containers moving in and out of the States each year and fewer than 2% of those containers are checked.

"Obviously, the concern of what might be in those containers is immense," Mr Linington told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

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See also:

20 Dec 01 | UK Politics
UK hails anti-terror progress
14 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Anti-terror Act at-a-glance
14 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Terror laws face court threat
13 Dec 01 | England
Britain on Christmas terror alert
21 Dec 01 | UK
Terror suspect refused bail
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