Sat, 12 Mar 2005

From: Reuters

America to install nuclear detectors in Singapore port

Koh Gui Qing, Reuters/Singapore

The U.S. government will install radiation detectors in Singapore's busy port to prevent the smuggling of ingredients for dirty nuclear bombs, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

Singapore, a close ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, is the first Southeast Asian nation to join Washington's "MegaPorts" security initiative which also covers the Bahamas, Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, Sri Lanka and Spain.

"The U.S. is going to supply the equipment free of cost as well as training, and maintenance of the equipment," David Huizenga, assistant deputy administrator of the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, told reporters.

The devices, which resemble a gate that can sound an alarm when containers holding nuclear material pass through, should be ready by September, U.S. officials said.

Singapore operates the world's second-busiest container port after Hong Kong and the world's biggest transshipment hub, where goods arriving by ship from one port are re-loaded onto a different ship destined for another port.

Singapore has repeatedly warned of potential links between sea pirates and militant networks such as Jamaah Islamiyah, blamed for the deadly 2002 bomb blasts on the Indonesian island of Bali and widely linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda.

Local authorities have warned repeatedly that terrorists could hijack a tanker ship laden with liquefied natural gas or lethal chemicals and use it as a "floating bomb" against its port, killing thousands.

Huizenga said Washington was in talks with 30 other countries to join the program and that negotiations with the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia could be concluded in months.

Speaking at a signing ceremony, U.S. ambassador to Singapore Frank Lavin said the plan was about "denying space to the enemy".

"We want to make sure that no port around the world is able to be used by terrorists for shipping radiological materials such as dirty bombs," Lavin said.