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Re: This weeks New Yorker Magazine has a great article on the Jersey side of New York Harbor.
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Global Terminal, which straddles Bayonne-Jersey City border, to double wharf space so it can accommodate big container ships

Friday, October 14, 2011, 9:57 AM
By Charles Hack/The Jersey Journal

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Global Terminal is planning to more than double its capacity to accommodate larger ships.

As container ships keep getting bigger and bigger, Bayonne?s Global Terminal is on track to more than double its capacity to stay competitive with other regional ports, officials said.

A permit application filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would allow Global Terminal to expand its existing wharf to 4,000 feet long enough to make it a four-berth container port at 302 Port Jersey Blvd., which straddles the border between Bayonne and Jersey City.

Officials say the investment is needed to ensure the port, which generates roughly $36 billion in annual business activity, stays competitive beyond 2014, when larger container ships will be in use.

Jim Devine, president and CEO of Global Terminal and Container Services, said other ports in the region, including Port Newark and Port Elizabeth, have already gotten the jump.

?We are playing catch-up,? Devine said. ?The facility has to evolve to handle the evolving ships.?

Devine said he will make a public announcement about the plans in a ?relatively short period time.?

A 30-day window for the public to file comments with the Army Corps on the latest phase of the plan ends Wednesday. Officials say the approval process takes roughly 120 days. Comments can be called into (917) 790-8412 or faxed to (212) 264-4260.

At 1,800 feet, the existing wharf is 200 feet too short to handle two modern ships, officials said.

The new permit would allow Global Terminal to add an additional 1,340 feet of wharf to 900 feet already under construction. Contractors are now dredging a 50-foot deep channel for the first phase, which is slated to be complete in 2013.

The port, which is used by several major international shipping lines, including Hapag Lloyd Container Line and NYK Line, is being prepared to handle ?post-Panamax? ships a term for the large vessels that Panama Canal is being widened to accommodate in 2014.

Because the project would involve covering over 6.6 acres of wetlands and open water, the company would to create and restore 16 acres of wetlands in Moonachie Creek in Carlstadt, according to the application.

Posted on: 2011/10/14 15:53

This weeks New Yorker Magazine has a great article on the Jersey side of New York Harbor.
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This weeks New Yorker Magazine has a great article on the Jersey side of New York Harbor -- worth the read!

Mobsters, terrorists, and the docks of New York Harbor.
New Yorker Magazine: Issue of 2006-06-19

Global Terminal, in Bayonne, New Jersey, has one clear advantage over most of its competitors for container-ship business in New York Harbor: it’s a straight shot from the Narrows, the harbor’s entrance. From Global’s wharf to Ambrose Seabuoy, out in the Atlantic, where arriving ships meet their pilots, the distance is only fourteen miles. Maurice Byan, the president of Global, told me that ships can save four hours by docking at his pier, which looks across at lower Manhattan, rather than turning west and going through the Kill Van Kull and up into Newark Bay, where the biggest container terminals are, in Port Newark and Elizabeth, or to Howland Hook, on the western shore of Staten Island. Also, ships that dock at Global don’t need to pass under the Bayonne Bridge, which is becoming a problem as container ships grow ever larger. Last year, a freighter had to remove its radio towers to make it.

Global, at a hundred acres, is a relatively small terminal, but it’s busy. Byan took me on a tour of the pier in his pickup truck, navigating between walls of containers and dodging big, fast-moving equipment—forklifts, bladed stackers, top loaders, and huge rubber-tired gantries, six stories high. “Empty field!” Byan yelled, pointing at some tall piles of multicolored containers, each one eight feet wide by eight feet high and forty feet long, with “CHINA SHIPPING” and “HANJIN” and “P & O NEDLLOYD” painted on the sides. Empty containers are the Port of New York and New Jersey’s biggest export, followed by wastepaper and scrap metal. The wastepaper mainly goes to China, and comes back later as paper goods. No empty containers arrive.

Byan, an unassuming sixty-year-old, comes from Baltimore, where his father and grandfather were longshoremen, and where he got his first job, driving a forklift on the piers. “The ships I started on looked like lifeboats compared to these things,” he said. He indicated a massive container ship that was being furiously unloaded. He had two new Super Post-Panamax quay cranes coming from China, where they were built. “Panamax” refers to the largest ship that can squeeze through the Panama Canal. Ships that are larger must sail through the Suez Canal on their way from China to New York, a trip that is several thousand miles longer. “We’ve done a hundred million dollars in upgrades,” Byan said. “Twenty-five million more to go. Wait till you see those new cranes.”

Many of the ships that dock at the terminal belong to Orient Overseas Container Line, a Chinese corporation, whose parent company owns Global, as well as the Howland Hook terminal. (Most big international port operators have fleets; indeed, one problem with recent calls to end foreign ownership of U.S. ports is that there is no American operator with this capacity.) Orient Overseas is a family-owned firm with close ties to the Chinese government leadership. Its former head, C. H. Tung, left the company to become chief executive of Hong Kong when Beijing took control of the territory. His brother, C. C. Tung, now runs the company.

“Reefers!” Byan said, pointing at a line of boxes. Reefers are refrigerated containers—“produce, wine, shrimp.” Longshoremen in bright-orange safety vests went about their jobs. “Average age out here used to be fifty-seven, fifty-eight,” Byan said. “We’re getting younger people now, though. Longshoremen used to be all big, brawny guys. Now they’re more educated, computer-savvy. Fact, these young guys make good crane operators. They grew up on video games.”

We drove by a radiation portal, a gateway equipped with a scanner through which all containers leaving the terminal must pass—part of the new federal port-security regime. The portal is overseen by officers of the Customs and Border Protection Agency. Byan said, “Customs bring the VACIS screening vehicle”—Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System, a gamma-ray imaging system—“down here a few days a week and do sonograms on the containers we’ve been told to isolate.”

The trashed, teemingly industrialized landscape around the major container terminals in Elizabeth and Port Newark is perhaps the most critical couple of miles in the entire American transportation system. It includes the New Jersey Turnpike, Newark airport, and so many gas and oil and chemical storage tanks that it is known as the Chemical Coast, all within easy striking distance of the piers. And then, of course, there’s Manhattan. National-security analysts estimate that if a terrorist attack closed New York Harbor in winter New England and upstate New York would run out of heating fuel within ten days. Even temporarily hampering the port’s operations would have immeasurable cascading effects.

Given the importance of New York Harbor, it seems odd that so much of it is still in the grip of organized crime. For generations, the Genovese family has controlled the New Jersey waterfront, and the Gambinos have had the New York side. The federal government is trying to assume control of the International Longshoremen’s Association, describing the union, in a RICO suit filed last July, as “a vehicle for organized crime.” Many of the union’s top leaders, the government alleges, are Mob associates. In Bayonne, the I.L.A. local has been under federal trusteeship since 2003, a drastic step taken after a long series of corruption scandals. Global Terminal’s offices were wiretapped in 2002, after law-enforcement agencies discovered that mobsters were discussing plans there. But over the years ambitious prosecutors, determined federal agencies, and courageous labor reformers have all made serious attempts to expel the Mob from New York Harbor, to little lasting effect. An argument can be made that it simply can’t be done.

Part of the popular image of mafiosi is that they are sentimental patriots, who would never help terrorists. Another view is that a port that criminals can penetrate at will can never be called secure. Organized crime has even been described as a “fifth column,” ready to aid the terrorist enemy.

Law enforcement is oriented toward catching criminals. In the case of smugglers, that means watching the shadows, the alleys and the byways that they use to move illicit cargo. Terrorists, too, are often trying to move illicit cargo, but there is a fundamental difference between organized crime and groups like Al Qaeda. Both may be ruthless and sociopathic, but the Mob is essentially conservative. Organized crime is, at bottom, a business model, meant to self-perpetuate. But what if a group plans to break the law only once, because its members are on a suicide mission? This is the apocalyptic mentality that anti-terror strategists need to comprehend.

In this context, the shipping container itself has become a major security concern—the poor man’s I.C.B.M., as it is sometimes known. More than eleven million of these big steel boxes arrive on American shores each year. The government’s post-September 11th security regime has created an expedited class of “trusted shippers”—that is, companies whose containers go through a “green lane,” where very few of them are stopped and inspected. It is not an easy lane to penetrate. But this is where what Customs officers call internal conspiracies may be useful to terrorist planning—accomplices in a steamship line, a terminal operator, a freight-forwarding company, a government agency, a shipper, a warehouse, or simply on the docks. Such inside operators, not all of them traditional mafiosi, may or may not know what they are expediting. As J. Kevin McGowan, the assistant police chief of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, told me, “If somebody could be bought, maybe they wouldn’t even care what was inside a container.”

If Americans today have a collective image of the old piers of New York Harbor, it’s no doubt drawn from “On the Waterfront,” the 1954 film with Marlon Brando as the dockworker Terry Malloy, which was based on Malcolm Johnson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning articles for the New York Sun. The movie’s depiction of longshoring under a mobbed-up union was so compelling that its scenes and characters have become part of the consciousness of the actual waterfront’s protagonists today—much as mobsters and their wannabes are said to watch “The Godfather,” “The Sopranos,” and “Goodfellas” for inspiration, education, and style tips. The Waterfront Commission was created by New York and New Jersey in 1953, in the wake of Johnson’s articles, to chase the Mob off the docks. When I asked McGowan why one recent investigation had been code-named Operation Brando, he looked at me as if I were stupid. “After Marlon,” he said.

McGowan, who is red-faced and white-haired, was wearing a sharp gray suit that day. We went to lunch at an Italian deli near his office, on the Brooklyn waterfront. He said, “This is a Gambino place, so we should maybe get our food to go. The former owner, we got him on conspiracy to distribute cocaine. He’s doing twenty.” As we approached the deli, an extremely large man in a brown velour tracksuit came out and passed us without looking our way. “That’s the new owner,” McGowan said. Inside, McGowan told the counterman, “I’m doing the chicken parm.” The counterman asked me, “What did he say? Did he say he was retiring?” McGowan patiently repeated his order, and the counterman said to me, “He thinks he’s saving the world.” Nobody smiled.

The sociologist Daniel Bell, writing in 1960 about New York Harbor’s rackets, noted that “the International Longshoremen’s Association has been less a trade union than a collection of Chinese warlords, each ruling a great or small province.” The longshoremen in Bayonne belong to Local 1588. Founded in 1938, Local 1588 has been a midsize province, but it has been ruled by some notable warlords. In the mid-seventies, a Genovese soldier named John DiGilio shot his way into control of the local and set up shop in an apartment directly above 1588’s storefront offices in Bayonne. Once, when an official of the local did something without his approval, DiGilio stormed downstairs and beat him. Eventually, DiGilio’s body turned up in a bag in the Hackensack River. “He had displeased Gigante,” a former federal prosecutor told me, referring to the Genovese boss Vincent (the Chin) Gigante.

The Waterfront Commission carries out investigations in co?peration with federal and local police agencies. It also regulates labor in the port, an aspect of its mandate that aids in fighting the Mob. By statute, the commission must license every worker involved in the movement of waterborne freight within a twenty-five-mile radius of the Statue of Liberty, and can deny a license, or “pass,” to anyone revealed, through background checks, to have a serious criminal record. New York Harbor is the only port in the country with such a body, but, after fifty-three years of this special oversight, it is also the only port in America with a substantial Mob problem (with the partial exception of Miami, to which a number of mobsters have relocated). The commission’s reason for being might, therefore, be questioned. The recent flurry of interest in port security has thus been welcome at the Waterfront Commission’s headquarters, on lower Broadway, and the commission has been pushing legislation that would expand its authority from looking for mobsters to looking for terrorists.

The rapid increase in global trade has put a different sort of pressure on the commission, however. World shipping is booming, and the Port of New York and New Jersey, after an era of postwar decline, has been booming along with it. In 2005, the cargo moving through the port was worth a hundred and thirty-two billion dollars—a record sum. The boom has brought with it a labor shortage. There are roughly five thousand licensed longshoremen in the port, and the New York Shipping Association—an employers’ group whose members include steamship lines and terminal operators—is anxious to increase that number.

An organization that has had only limited success against local racketeers is perhaps not the best-qualified agency to foil Al Qaeda. But the federal government has hardly inspired confidence with its port-security initiatives. In 2003, the Department of Homeland Security vowed to introduce tamperresistant identification cards for all transportation workers, but it has already missed several deadlines for doing so. Other high-tech security proposals, such as “smart boxes”—containers fitted with sensors that will track their location, temperature, and radiation and carbon-monoxide levels—are all good in theory but remain very far from implementation. In the real world, port security relies, in large measure, on local knowledge. Often it comes down to particular bits of fence, back doors, unlocked gates, to shady importers, abandoned docks and warehouses—places and people known only to local cops, wharf rats, waterside businesses, and longshoremen.

In 1995, two containers of perfume disappeared from the Global pier. The cargo was worth two million dollars, “and that raised some red flags for us,” McGowan said. He sent an undercover officer to a bar in Bayonne where some possible suspects hung out. That led him to Nicholas Romano, the shop steward at Global. Romano was the son-in-law of Nicholas Furina, a Genovese associate who was then running the waterfront in Bayonne for Vincent Gigante. (Furina was also a hiring agent for P. & O., the British company that was recently sold to Dubai Ports World.) It turned out that Romano had taken the perfume, with the help of a Global manager whom investigators then flipped. By mid-2005, the entire Furina crew had been convicted of theft, racketeering, bribery, or extortion.

When the federal trusteeship was imposed, 1588’s leadership was dismissed (and, in many cases, prosecuted). Corrupt union officials are not, however, the only cause of mobbed-up docks. “You’d think the employers would welcome us. Not so,” Robert McGuire, a former New York police commissioner who was appointed to supervise 1588, said. “Their view of us is ‘McGuire will be gone. Then we’ll be back to dealing with the street.’ ”

Last year, 1588 held closely monitored elections for shop steward. The new shop steward at Global is Tom Hanley, a crane operator. I asked McGowan, who seemed to know everyone in the Port of New York and New Jersey, if he knew Hanley. He said he didn’t. “Must be one of the good guys,” he said.

I visited Tom Hanley at his fourth-floor walkup in Bayonne. We sat at his kitchen table, where he was making a roast-beef sandwich, preparing to go to work. Hanley is sixty-six years old, tall and powerfully built. He’s been working as a longshoreman for forty-nine years, thirty-three of them at Global. When he was born, he told me, his family lived on Charles Street, in Greenwich Village. His father was a longshoreman on the West Side docks. One day, when Tom was four months old, his father went to work and never returned. Hanley was later told that his father had been killed for disrespecting two gangsters who ran the West Side piers. The Hanleys moved across the river to Hoboken, and Tom grew up rough on the docks.

“Hoboken was like the Barbary Coast,” Hanley said, and then laughed. “Whatever the Barbary Coast was like.”

He quit school after the ninth grade. “Economic necessity,” he said. His older brother was already a longshoreman, and he got Tom a job. “He was hooked up with the Murphy brothers, who were in power in Hoboken at the time,” Hanley said. “They killed two or three people to take over that local. When I told my mother I was gonna get my pass”—from the Waterfront Commission—“she said, ‘No, you know what happened to your father.’ So I said, ‘Ma, it’s either the waterfront or the Railway Express.’ I used to steal some cargo with some guys from the Railway Express. So she chose the waterfront.”

When Hanley started, the cargo that longshoremen handled was “breakbulk”—loose, in bags and crates and barrels, on pallets. The signature tool of the dockworker was a short, wooden-handled steel baling hook. “It was heavy, hard work,” Hanley said. “And I was only a hundred sixty-five pounds then. All day, breaking your balls. But I had more staying power than I thought.” Then, starting in the late sixties, came containerization—the advent of the standard intermodal cargo container, which can be transferred from a ship straight onto a truck or a railcar. The majority of the port’s dockwork, once concentrated on the West Side of Manhattan, moved to New Jersey: the old Manhattan finger piers, on their wooden pilings, weren’t strong enough to handle big gantry cranes, or able to provide the big yards, or “backspace,” for eighteen-wheelers to queue up and turn around. Dockwork quickly grew more automated; longshoremen became heavy-equipment operators. Fewer men were needed, and the pay improved.

“I had a friend who was a bad killer,” Hanley told me. We had moved to his living room; Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers were playing on the stereo. “When I left Hoboken, and came to Global, he always used to say, ‘Tommy, any jobs you want done over there?’ And I’d always say, ‘No, I’m driving a crane, I’m making money.’ If I’d said yes, it would’ve been done. But then I would’ve owed him something,” Hanley said. “I could have had a lot of different jobs from wiseguys.” He meant desirable positions on the piers. “But, once you take one of those, you owe them. And then it never stops.”

As a kid, Hanley had a role in “On the Waterfront.” He played Tommy, the boy who looks after Terry Malloy’s beloved pigeons in their rooftop coop in Hoboken, and then, devastated by the news that Malloy has begun co?perating with a crime commission, kills the birds.

“They were building pigeon coops on the roof of my tenement, so the movie company hired me, kind of like you hire a kid to watch your car when you’re in Harlem. I guess they thought I was going to burn the coops down or something,” he said. “Anyway, I was feeding the pigeons, and I got sent to the Actors Studio, on West Fifty-seventh Street, where Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg were doing auditions.” Kazan was the film’s director, and Schulberg was the screenwriter. “They deliberately enraged me,” Hanley said. “They said, ‘We heard your father was a squealer.’ So I went nuts, started throwing chairs at them, and that’s what they wanted, because there’s that scene where I throw a pigeon at Brando. At the time, I didn’t really know who Brando was. But the girls in my neighborhood knew who he was.”

The movie company offered Hanley two hundred and fifty dollars a week. “That was like half a million dollars to us,” he said. “My mom and I were starving. We were eight months behind on our rent, which was fourteen dollars a month. It lasted only two weeks, but still.” The work itself was easy. “Elia Kazan walked me through it. He just kept saying, ‘You can do it.’ I’d never had attention like that before.” He paused. “I was on TV once after that, on ‘The Red Buttons Show,’ ” he said. Then, with impeccable timing, he added, “I pursued my acting career on the waterfront, where I pretended to be a tough guy.”

Hanley is divorced and lives alone. He has three children, who are all grown. There were framed photographs of them on the bookshelves. He took one down. “My baby. She’s in law school, in Florida,” he said.

“I know a lot of mobsters my age,” Hanley went on. “And they’re going to prison now. Loan sharks, bookies. What was their life? Sitting around the social club all their lives, drinking all day. That’s a suck life.”

When Hanley ran for shop steward of 1588, it was the first election for that post in his forty-nine years on the docks. There is a reform movement within the I.L.A., but it is strongest down South, where the union’s leadership has a looser grip—the union is based in New York—and the membership is mostly African-American. The movement has had trouble gaining a foothold in New York Harbor; Hanley, for instance, has kept his distance. The co-chairmen of the reform coalition are Leonard Riley, a longshoreman in Charleston, South Carolina, and Tony Perlstein, a longshoreman at Global, who has worked as a labor organizer in other industries, and is a graduate of Brown University. (Perlstein says that he has been threatened, both subtly and otherwise. After one union-local meeting in New Jersey, he was confronted by a group of workers aligned with the Old Guard. “Hey, Tone, you think we’re stupid?” one of them asked. He put a finger in Perlstein’s face and bellowed, “I Googled you!”)

“Some of the old guys around here think Perlstein’s a Communist,” Hanley told me. “I couldn’t care less. But they don’t like some young guy telling them how things should be. They want us to be more like the West Coast.” The longshoremen on the West Coast broke away from the I.L.A. in the thirties, forming their own, more militant, Mob-free union. “The West Coast, it’s true they run a much tighter ship, I think. But even there I doubt it’s totally legit. Is anything ever totally legit?”

For the moment, he said, with the federal monitors around, the wiseguys in Bayonne were lying low. In the past few years alone, Local 1588 officials—shop stewards, pier foremen, two secretary-treasurers, three presidents—have been convicted of, among other crimes, racketeering, extortion, bribery, conspiracy, embezzlement, and grand theft. Their sons, nephews, cousins, friends, wives, and girlfriends are still working in Bayonne, however. Hanley laughed. “They’re all still pecking at the door.” It was nine o’clock in the evening, in mid-December, and he had to go to work. It was going to be a cold night on the pier.

If there is any one person in charge of the Port of New York and New Jersey, it is Glenn Wiltshire, United States Coast Guard, the Captain of the Port. From his command center, at Fort Wadsworth, on Staten Island, he surveys the waterside for problems, emergencies, threats. His jurisdiction includes the Hudson River up to Lake Champlain, the East River out to Hempstead Harbor, all of New York Harbor, and a big wedge of the Atlantic Ocean extending out two hundred miles. Before September 11th, the terrorism-prevention aspect of maritime security accounted for two per cent of Coast Guard activity. Today, it’s twenty-five per cent. Captain Wiltshire, whose manner is supremely matter-of-fact, told me, “We have to get ready for a low-probability, high-consequence event.” His people look hard at every vessel that approaches New York Harbor—fishing boats, yachts, and, of course, the more than fifty-three hundred foreign-flagged commercial ships that dock here each year.

“For certain vessels, we’ll put a boarding team aboard and, beyond the security exam, we’ll leave a team on board to watch the control spaces as the ship is coming in,” he said. The Coast Guard calls these “ships of concern.” “We want to make sure that nothing untoward is coming. There are three main possibilities. One, the ship is carrying the weapon. Two, the ship is the weapon. Three, the ship is carrying the people who intend an attack.”

I asked how a ship might be a weapon.

“It could be a loaded oil tanker, intended to be used as a bomb, or to take down a bridge. Or maybe a bad guy plans to sink a ship in the middle of Kill Van Kull. That would stop about eighty per cent of our container traffic,” Captain Wiltshire said. “We’re also on the lookout for a U.S.S. Cole-type attack.” He was referring to the Al Qaeda attack, in 2000, in Yemen, by a bomb-filled dinghy against a Navy destroyer, which killed seventeen American sailors.

The Coast Guard has been boarding vessels without search warrants since 1790. Until recently, however, the Guardsmen normally did so unarmed. In New York Harbor, there are long-established security zones around such sites as the United Nations during the General Assembly. Since September 11th, new zones—the Statue of Liberty, the Indian Point nuclear power plant—have been added, and their enforcement tightened. But some laws and port regulations have become outdated in the new security era, Captain Wiltshire told me. Vessels are still allowed, for instance, to stay in anchorages for thirty days; a tanker full of crude oil might be left to sit out a price fluctuation before it docks. “We’re going to reduce that,” he said.

The tension between security and commerce is inescapable. Last month, the Times reported that some Coast Guard commanders, heeding complaints from big shippers about costly delays, have been warning some ships about what are supposed to be random inspections. According to the Times, this practice (which seems to be common in Los Angeles and Long Beach, though not, apparently, in the Port of New York and New Jersey) was condoned by the Coast Guard’s top command in Washington.

The main emphasis of post-9/11 American maritime-security strategy is to push the borders out as far as they can go—across the oceans, if possible. Indeed, wherever there is a plausible suspicion that a ship carries a weapon of mass destruction, or its components, the U.S. and a number of its allies now reserve the right to board, inspect, and interdict, beyond their territorial waters, under a 2003 compact known as the Proliferation Security Initiative. This initiative has been used primarily against vessels travelling to and from North Korea, but it is also aimed at terrorist organizations.

There are a hundred and twenty thousand merchant ships at work today. American intelligence agencies have estimated that Al Qaeda owns or controls as many as fifty. The explosives used to destroy the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1998, were delivered to East Africa on an Al Qaeda ship. But it is impossible to trace ship ownership and registration with much accuracy. As a U.S. official told the Washington Post, “You can’t swing a dead cat in the shipping business without hitting somebody with phony papers.” There are more than a million seafarers at work, and most come from poor countries—Indonesia, China, the Philippines. The opportunities for terrorist operatives to move by sea under false identities are effectively endless. The most glaring vulnerability in maritime security, however, is the container.

In 1955, a North Carolina trucking-company owner named Malcom McLean invented the modern cargo container. Today, ninety per cent of world shipping moves by container. (McLean’s company, Sea-Land, was sold to a Danish company, Maersk, in 1999.) Since 2002, a program known as the Container Security Initiative requires our main trading partners to send to U.S. Customs and Border Protection an electronic manifest for every U.S.-bound container twenty-four hours before it is loaded on a ship. Customs, if it notices anything alarming, may ask the foreign port to inspect the container’s contents, or refuse it. This program covers almost eighty per cent of all U.S.-bound ocean-borne cargo. There is also a voluntary, public-private initiative, established in late 2001, called the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, or C.-T.PAT, in which companies agree to have their security procedures vetted by U.S. authorities, in exchange for expedited handling of their business—the green lane. More than six thousand firms have been accepted into C.-T.PAT, including all the big American importers. Forty-five per cent of U.S. imports now pass through the green lane.

These systems are far from foolproof. The information on cargo manifests is routinely vague, incomplete, or wrong, and foreign ports are generally expected to purchase their own radiation-detection systems, which are expensive. Spot checks by American officials at a number of ports have not been reassuring. A Department of Homeland Security study leaked in March found opportunities, all along the cargo corridor—in American and foreign ports—“that would enable unmanifested material or weapons of mass destruction to be introduced into the supply chain.”

In September, 2003, an investigative team at ABC News shipped fifteen pounds of depleted uranium from Jakarta to Los Angeles in a container full of furniture. Customs agents in Los Angeles targeted the container for screening—something that happens to less than seven per cent of all arriving containers. The container passed, and entered the country unopened. Depleted uranium is relatively harmless, and legal to import, but it gives off a radiation signature very similar to that of the highly enriched uranium used for nuclear weapons. “If they can’t detect that, then they can’t detect the real thing,” a nuclear physicist told journalists.

I spent one morning this winter watching customs agents work the radiation portals on trucks leaving Maher Terminal, in Elizabeth. All container terminals in New York–New Jersey have radiation portals. (Nationally, the coverage is fifty-seven per cent.) There were a lot of radiation hits—as many as two hundred a day, the agents said. Tiles, pottery, even kitty litter emit a low-level radiation that sets off the alarm. The agents come out of their toll booth, check the manifest, and run handheld isotope-identification devices around the containers. If anything seems unresolved, they send the vehicle over to the VACIS machine. At the VACIS—basically, a giant outdoor CAT scan for trucks—more agents study an X-ray-like image of the container’s contents. They look at the metal strip seal on the container’s door, and make sure it’s intact. They don’t open the doors. If there’s anything they don’t like, they can send the container for physical inspection, but that happens less than two per cent of the time.

One VACIS operator said, “These truckers, we don’t know who they are. They might pop a container in the yard, take something out. That’s why we check the seals. But you’ve got to check the hardware, too. The seal can be intact, but the container can be tampered with. They can take off the door.” Another operator pointed to the image on his monitor. “Coffee grounds,” he said. “You can’t see through coffee grounds.” With certain adjustments, VACIS can in fact see through coffee grounds, but he let the container go.

I talked to Bill Brush, who at the time was the assistant port director at Customs and Border Protection, in Port Newark. He described the “targeting algorithm” that a National Targeting Center in Virginia has developed for container security. “It has three thousand rules for evaluating data,” he said. “If somebody wants to try something, he has to be very careful there’s no historical anomaly. We have more than twenty years of entry data. We know how much a hundred bales of cotton should weigh. Our targeting will tell us if this is the eight thousandth time we’ve seen this commodity from this importer from this port—but this time there’s something different about it. Each rule in targeting has a derogatory weight to it. So, if this is an unusual commodity to be coming from this country—paint from Syria, say—then that’s points. Points pile up to trigger an exam. Before 9/11, local officers made the call on cargo inspection. Now everything goes through the automated target system.”

Some experts believe that reliance on the targeting algorithm may be a problem. In 2004, Homeland Security’s inspector-general, Clark Kent Ervin, found more contraband in containers that had been selected randomly than Customs found in those it had segregated. Stephen Flynn, a former Coast Guard commander who is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, explained the odd results this way: “The targeting algorithm is very well known in the trade. People in business work hard to make sure Customs doesn’t pull out their box. And drug traffickers figure it out, too.” What’s being lost in the automated system, Flynn says, is the “dock smarts” of experienced officers.

Bill Brush, for example, can talk in passionate detail about seventy ways to manipulate container seals, or how to tell a false interior wall at a glance. “The first thing you look for as you walk into a container is the upper corners,” he said. “Can you see the lift points? A four-inch false wall can hide a lot of stuff—including W.M.D. We can’t forget the lessons we learned from narcotics interdiction.” He mentioned stowaways. “We used to see them escorting narcotics, but they’re even more of a worry now,” he said. “You find two stowaways in a rudder compartment, you’ve got to assume they may be guarding something.” Brush went on, “We’re looking for small indicators—maybe small amounts, too. But you’ve got to use your imagination.” Still, with seven thousand electronic bills of lading being filed daily for the Port of New York and New Jersey alone, Brush’s small staff would be swamped without its targeting algorithm. The volume of lading bills is one reason that politicians who call for vastly heavier port security tend to infuriate the experts. Shmuel Yahalom, a transportation economist at SUNY Maritime, in the Bronx, said, referring to the New York senator, “Charles Schumer was pushing for one hundred per cent container inspection? That would kill the port!”

Shortly after September 11th, there was an incident in Italy that suggested that Al Qaeda was thinking imaginatively about containers. Workers in the port of Gioa Tauro heard noises coming from inside a container. They found a forty-three-year-old Egyptian stowaway. He was well dressed, with a bed, plenty of food and water, and a makeshift toilet. More than that, according to “A Time Bomb for Global Trade,” by the journalist Michael Richardson, he was carrying “a satellite phone, a laptop computer, several cameras, batteries, and . . . airport security passes and an airline mechanic’s certificate valid for four major American airports.” The container had been loaded in Port Said, Egypt, and was bound for Canada. The Italian police, who believed that the stowaway was an Al Qaeda operative, arrested him, but he was released on bail and disappeared.

The Garment District Plot, as the New York City Police Department calls it, may represent the essence of the container threat. In early 2003, Uzair Paracha, a twenty-three-year-old Pakistani, met with three men in Karachi who said that they wanted to invest in his family’s firm, International Merchandise Group, which exported clothes to the United States. Paracha had grown up partly in New York City, and had a green card. His father, Saifullah Paracha, had introduced him to the “investors”: Majid Khan, Ammar al-Baluchi, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11th terror attacks. Uzair Paracha was interested not in jihad but in the two hundred thousand dollars that the Al Qaeda men said they would initially invest. In return, Uzair agreed to help Majid Khan—who had previously lived in the United States—return to America. Khan handed over his driver’s license, Social Security card, a bank card, and credit cards, and Uzair took them with him to New York.

While Uzair Paracha went about establishing a fictitious presence for Majid Khan in the United States—making purchases with Khan’s credit cards and calls in his name to the immigration service—Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was arrested in Pakistan. He quickly gave up a lode of information to American interrogators, including the names of the Parachas. Uzair Paracha was arrested in his father’s office in the garment district in March, 2003. In his briefcase, agents found Khan’s identification. Uzair was convicted of conspiring to help an Al Qaeda operative enter the country and carry out an attack; he will be sentenced next week. Khan and Baluchi were arrested in Pakistan and are believed to be in secret American custody. Saifullah Paracha is being held at Guant?namo Bay.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed reportedly also talked to interrogators about his interest in the Parachas’ business as a way to smuggle explosives into the United States in shipping containers. Kmart was a customer of the Parachas. And Kmart is, of course, a denizen of the green lane into the U.S.

The largest American importer by far is Wal-Mart. Last year, it brought seven hundred thousand container units through the green lane into the country. The rise of the big-box retailers, with their global network of suppliers, has caused a shift in power in the international shipping business away from the steamship lines and terminal operators, and toward the importers. What is more, companies like Wal-Mart have been actively working against stronger port- and containersecurity laws since shortly after the September 11th terror attacks. The Retail Industry Leaders Association, a Washington lobby dominated by Wal-Mart, actually boasted, in a 2005 report to its members, about its “continued industry leadership in opposition to ill-advised and onerous port security measures (i.e. cargo fees, increased physical inspections).”

The container-ship revolution has effectively abolished distance as a pricing factor. For a pair of shoes made in China and sold in this country for fifty dollars, only about seventy-five cents of the retail cost derives from transportation. And the main costs in international shipping come from friction in the pipeline, particularly at the points of ship loading and unloading. The costs exacted by fraud and other crimes—the “Mob tax”—are small compared with the costs of ordinary, honest labor. It is, therefore, the latter costs—unionized labor, essentially—that concern global shipping interests, rather than the costs associated with reducing crime or with the industry’s potential contribution to terrorism.

Containers represent an opportunity for mobsters as well as for terrorists; in the last few decades, containerization has transformed the traditional waterfront rackets. Pilferage, for instance, became more difficult with less loose cargo and more big sealed boxes crossing the docks. Mob-connected firms began operating garages to provide container and truck-chassis maintenance, and union health contracts started going to mobbed-up clinics and pharmacies.

The Mafia still makes money from no-show jobs and shakedowns of shipping lines and terminal operators in exchange for “labor peace.” The job of shop steward at Global Terminal, for example, had long been, as one longshoreman told me, “a Mob job. Look at the pay.” The pay is a hundred and sixty thousand dollars a year. Nobody thought that Tom Hanley wanted the job for the money, though. He made a hundred and fifty-seven thousand dollars last year as a crane operator. That’s high for an East Coast longshoreman—nearly twice the average—but not for a man of his seniority and experience operating a crane.

When he started longshoring, Hanley made two dollars and thirty-five cents an hour. In the nineteen-seventies, his pay rose to twenty thousand a year, and he was astounded, he said. “I sure never thought I’d make a hundred thousand bucks a year on the docks, not in this life.” It bothers him when people are surprised by what he earns. “A lot of people don’t think we should be making this kind of money,” he said. “We’re peons, we’re working stiffs.”

Aside from longshoring, few of the jobs around the docks are unionized. Most containers leave and arrive at marine terminals on trucks. Some are long-haul interstate trucks, but most are local drayage—quick turns to nearby warehouses and distribution centers—and, since the deregulation of trucking, in the nineteen-eighties, the great majority of drivers are not Teamsters but “owner-operators,” which is to say non-union, with no safety training, professional licensing, or benefits. As a result, port trucking is a badly paid, precarious line of work, pursued only by the economically desperate. Most of the truckers at the major ports are Latino immigrants, and a good percentage of them are undocumented. (Bill Brush, of Customs and Border Protection, told me, “If you were to make a firm policy that, say, Los Angeles and Long Beach had to check the immigration bona fides of every trucker, you’d have a major trucker shortage. You’d have a trade breakdown.”) In May, ninety per cent of the drivers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach took part in the nationwide work boycott in support of immigrants’ rights.

Port trucking is also a port-security problem. The Department of Homeland Security recently conducted a study of nine thousand truckers who work in the Port of New York and New Jersey. All had been issued identification cards that gave them access to the entire port. According to a draft of the study obtained by the Associated Press, nearly half of the drivers had criminal records, and about five hundred were carrying phony drivers’ licenses.

Most officials who work around the docks reject the idea that mobsters would willingly allow jihadists to move a load across a pier. It’s striking how often movies and television are mentioned when this is the question. Would Tony Soprano let some Arabs come in and blow up New York? No way. Didn’t you see the episode where he got so mad about Al Qaeda that he threw a cash register at an innocent bartender? Bill Brush mentioned an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, “Eraser.” I hadn’t seen it. “Well, this pier Mob only handles American crime,” he said. In another, perhaps more realistic—and certainly more sombre—moment, Brush said, “If someone is going to offer one of these groups enough money, I’m not sure if they’re going to ask questions.”

The American public was clearly disturbed to learn, earlier this year, that our ports are run largely by foreign corporations. But terminal operators tend to be owned by companies with steamship lines—the shipping business is highly vertically integrated—and the last major American line, American President, was sold to a Singapore conglomerate in 1997. American-flagged service in the North Atlantic actually ended in 1969. When the Administration of George H. W. Bush went looking for American firms to handle some of its stevedoring and shipping in the first Gulf War, it found virtually none with the needed capacity. Today, a Singapore company handles a large amount of U.S. government work in the Middle East. The largest American terminal operator is S.S.A. Marine, in Seattle, a family-owned company; with no ships or containers, or even a logistics business, it is hardly in the global big leagues. It’s fair to say that, if foreign-owned terminal operators were barred from American ports, many terminals would cease functioning.

The main reason for America’s absence from the field is that international shipping is a high-risk, capital-intensive business that periodically requires extensive state assistance, and neither Wall Street nor Washington has traditionally had much interest in it. (Military shipping is another matter: the United States Navy is by far the world’s largest.) Other governments and other national financial establishments have made different calculations.

Orient Overseas, the Chinese company that owns Global and the terminal at Howland Hook, has a fleet of sixty-nine ships which includes some of the largest vessels afloat. They operate in a partnership known as the Grand Alliance, which includes Hapag-Lloyd, of Germany (a hundred and thirty-six ships), and N.Y.K., of Japan (a hundred and nineteen ships). Both Hapag-Lloyd and N.Y.K. also operate terminals. Maersk is the world’s largest steamship line, with five hundred and seventy ships. When calling in New York, they use the company’s own terminal, in Port Newark.

The Chinese owners are not a particularly visible presence at Global or at Howland Hook. They have never been implicated in any of the waterfront-racketeering cases; nor have they been much involved in chasing the Mob out. Howland Hook, like Global, has had its problems in this regard. A former president, Carmine Ragucci, was an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2002 waterfront-racketeering trial that sent Peter Gotti and seventeen other Gambino soldiers to prison. Orient Overseas quietly let Ragucci go that year, and replaced him with Jim De Vine, a veteran terminal manager who, by all accounts, keeps close control over the operation.

Nonetheless, in December, 2003, a major bust at Howland Hook netted a hundred and fifty-seven kilos of cocaine, with a street value of nearly four million dollars. It was the third big coke seizure at Howland Hook in less than three years. These shipments, the authorities concluded, weren’t the work of old-style wiseguys but of a Colombian cartel.

The authorities have no idea, of course, how many cocaine shipments they have missed. They do know that longshoremen have been deeply involved in the smuggling. A dockworker accomplice looks for a certain container, off a certain ship, and sets it out in a designated spot in the yard. Dockworkers also serve as lookouts. “They know on the pier the second you arrive,” Kevin McGowan, of the Waterfront Commission police, said. “They’ve all got walkie-talkies. ‘Waterfront’s here.’ ”“

“What are those things?” I asked.

“Monsters!” the Reverend James Kollin replied.

They were straddle-carriers, actually; eight-wheeled and fifty feet high, they rushed past us clutching shipping containers in their jaws. They were being driven by longshoremen in little cabs suspended at the top of four huge pillars and are, in fact, known on the piers as the Insects from Outer Space. I was accompanying the Reverend Kollin, who is a chaplain at the Seamen’s Church Institute, on his rounds. Kollin, a solidly built Filipino in his forties, visits ships in the port, offering help to foreign sailors. Today, he was headed for the Teng He, a Chinese ship that was being unloaded at Maher Terminal. There were sailors, he had heard, who wanted to use his cell phone, and others, with visas, hoping for a lift to a shopping mall.

The Teng He was tied up end-to-end with the Ever Delight, an Italian-Taiwanese container ship that sails under a Panamanian flag. We climbed the gangway, and were greeted by Liang Du, the ship’s chief mate, who had long, wavy hair. He wore slippers and bright-blue overalls. He escorted us into the depths of the ship. The passages were spotless. We rode an elevator up to Du’s office, where curtains were drawn against the morning sun. Du had no visa, so he was stuck on the ship, overseeing some engine work and receiving fuel oil.

Du, who is thirty-two, lives near Shanghai but spends eight months a year at sea. He works for the China Ocean Shipping Company, a state-owned conglomerate with a fleet of a hundred and thirty-three ships. The Teng He’s route ran from Qingdao, in northeastern China, through the Panama Canal, then up to Charleston, New York, and Boston. The crew was unloading—Du checked his papers—six hundred and twelve containers in Elizabeth. He had no idea what was in them, or who owned the cargo. (Wal-Mart, probably. It is China Ocean’s largest customer.) The ship was picking up nine hundred and fifty containers, most of them empties for China. The Teng He, which is twelve years old, is nine hundred feet long, and can carry nearly four thousand standard containers. The next generation of container ships will carry ten thousand, and will have drafts too deep to enter New York Harbor fully loaded.

We went up on the bridge and watched the longshore gangs unloading the ship. Each gantry crane works a hatch—a cross-section of the ship—and each crane has a gang. The work goes fast, the operator zooming back and forth high above the ship’s deck, and a great rectangular claw called a spreader swinging below. The container yard is a heavy-duty traffic accident always about to happen, and to me the dockwork looked like a high-speed ballet in hard hats, high-visibility vests, and steel-tipped boots.

Chief Mate Du was not as impressed. Too slow, he said. In Qingdao, the crews made far more moves per hour.

Other experts I asked agreed with Du. The main Chinese ports are essentially brand-new. “New York–New Jersey is ten to fifteen years behind China in port technology,” Chang Qian Guan, a professor of maritime science at the United States Merchant Marine Academy, in Kings Point, New York, told me.

Chief Mate Du had been to New York eight or nine times but had never been ashore. Once, in 1998, when his ship docked in Long Beach, he went to Disneyland. I asked him if he had any interest in seeing the city. He was noncommittal. “From the river, you see a lot of broken old buildings,” he said. “That was a big surprise. In the movies, on TV, America is always very splendid.”

The Reverend Kollin had other ships to visit. We said goodbye, and ran the gantlet of Maher Terminal’s straddle-carriers again. Just north, on the Port Newark docks, there were vast fields of new automobiles, and the ungainly ships known as Ro-Ros (roll on, roll off) tied up at the wharf, discharging more. Nearby, looking like a dirty glacier, stood an atavistic mountain of salt. But mostly it was containers, in their thousands.

I asked Kollin why he did this work.He said it was because he was Filipino, and a great many of the world’s seafarers are also Filipinos. Seafarers are frequently abused, exploited, and in need of help. You rarely encounter abuse on a Chinese ship, he said, where the hierarchy and homogeneity and rules are strong, and we wouldn’t see it on the ship we were visiting next, a Swedish vessel. “But some ships may have a Russian captain, Croatian officers, and sailors from the Philippines and Indonesia. Communication is poor, and the dynamics can get very difficult. Greek ships—a lot of problems.” The work of the Seamen’s Church, which is based in lower Manhattan and was founded in 1834, has become more difficult generally, he said, since September 11th. “The security is more strict. For instance, we have an Indian captain with us now who simply needs to get to the airport. In the past, the Coast Guard would have let us escort him, and he could go home. But now the State Department is in charge, or maybe it’s Homeland Security. They’re rigid, they’re strict. They’re not part of the port community. So he is stuck in limbo.”

“If I wanted to bring an atomic bomb into the port, I’d do it through that scrap operation.”

Hearing a federal official who was familiar with New York Harbor make this remark, I thought that I should check out the place he meant. Its real name is Claremont Terminal. It’s in Jersey City, at the end of a maze of industrial alleyways—a roaring, muddy, twilight world of battered trucks and rusted railcars and astounding heaps of old cables, pipe, car bodies, fencing, framing, boilers, water heaters, propane tanks.

This is, of course, one of the harbor’s few major exports: scrap metal and other refuse. Claremont Terminal is owned by Sims Hugo Neu, an Australian company that is the world’s largest recycler of metal. With a hundred and twenty sites around the globe, Sims Hugo Neu, according to its Web site, is in the business of “processing end-of-life products.” This is an excellent and honorable thing to be doing. Still, the Scrap, as people call it, looks like a place of perdition.

Like most piers, there are signs forbidding unauthorized access and, as on many piers, I went right past them unchallenged. But the Scrap feels like a truly lawless zone. For some reason, the Waterfront Commission’s writ does not run here. Background checks, passes—forget all that. A lot of John DiGilio’s old crew can still be found at the Scrap. Traditionally, when local dockworkers lost their passes, they came here. The federal official who told me about the Scrap has spent his career fighting organized crime. In truth, I thought, the low-probability, high-consequence event of everybody’s nightmares would almost surely not happen here; that was just a frustrated lawman talking.

I parked my car between two trucks that seemed to have giant, dented tin cans on their backs, which were full of smaller dented tin cans. I wandered around in the rain for a while, trying to find an office, trying not to get run over by trucks. The only sign I saw was a rusted, filthy greeting on the entrance road, “Help Keep Jersey City Clean.” I caught some sidelong looks from brawny guys in high-visibility vests, but everybody kept their distance. I needed some kind of introduction. The grinding and beeping of trucks was so loud, conversation would have been impossible anyway. I found my way back to my car and left.

Posted on: 2006/6/19 15:31

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