Port and maritime operations represent a challenge to the security of nations and the global economy. Global trade depends on maritime transport. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimated international seaborne trade of 8.17 billion tons of goods in 2008 , representing 80 percent of international trade. Despite the importance of international ports to global commerce, there are few uniform standards for point-to-point control of security on containers, cargoes, vessels, and crews. The port security of a single nation remains at the mercy of the standards and procedures of other nations.
Public policymakers are aware that ports remain critically vulnerable, but both funding and government-led efforts to harden port facilities are lagging while the focus remains on threats to air travel. In February of this year, for example, a hearing of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee  addressed the disparity between funding for air travel security and funding for other vulnerabilities. Senator Robert Byrd noted that the fiscal 2011 budget provided only level funding for port security, among other areas, while providing for investment in technologically advanced airport scanners.
Port owners are subject to a patchwork of regulations and initiatives while working to meet individual security goals. Portions of a facility are often leased to private terminal operators, who are responsible for their own security, and there may be shared public/private responsibility for a site. The result is a balkanized system of port security and operations management, with secur ity concerns often secondary to issues of time management and convenience.
The quality of security personnel is another issue. While many ports require background checks on their own hires, local security guards, often supplied by outside agencies, introduce vulnerability to the port and rarely have the skills needed to use advanced systems. A Jacksonville police officer doing a routine check at the entrance to the Port of Jacksonville stopped a man who had been working as a security officer at the Port for one week. The man, a Brazilian national, had been denied permanent immigrant status in 2007 and was carrying both an illegal firearm and a stolen police badge .