Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 July 2009
The terrorist attacks in the United States on 9/11 shocked not only the United States, but the entire international community. The attacks were unequivocally condemned by the United Nations Security Council and by most members of the international community. They triggered an almost immediate response led by the United States at the international level for additional measures and increased cooperation to prevent and suppress terrorist activities.
As a result of 9/11, states and international organizations were forced to completely rethink the threat of maritime terrorism. They recognized that if terrorists groups could strike powerful states using commercial aircraft, they could also strike using commercial shipping. The threat of maritime terrorism suddenly included the following: oil tankers being hijacked and used as weapons against other ships or port facilities; terrorists entering countries posing as seafarers, and weapons of mass destruction being shipped on merchant ships to terrorist organizations.
The United States recognized that the threat of maritime terrorism could not be dealt with unilaterally. International shipping is by its very nature, international, and can only be regulated through international cooperation. Since 9/11 the United States has led a two-pronged approach to obtain international cooperation to deal with the threat of maritime terrorism. First, it has worked vigorously and patiently to encourage the relevant United Nations bodies such as the UN Security Council, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) to take action that requires member states to impose new measures to deal with the threat of maritime terrorism.