Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Ian Cole


An assessment of a 16-year period since the 9/11 attacks indicated that more than 14,000 security breaches in which security measures at seaports were circumvented due to vulnerabilities occurred and more than 24,000 suspicious activity reports were made. The susceptibility of United States’ seaports to groups engaged in criminal activities, including drug trafficking, cargo theft, and smuggling of contraband and people undermines security practices and renders the nation vulnerable to acts of terrorism. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore seaport security measures to identify and understand internal and external factors that may impact protection practices at U.S. seaports, including those that inadvertently contribute to unauthorized access to restricted facilities and cargo. von Bertalanffy’s general systems theory was used to conceptualize and analyze seaports as complex systems, comprised of independent subsystems working together. Data for the study were collected through Zoom audio recorded interviews conducted with 10 security officials from seaports in the United States. These data were subjected to open and thematic coding, followed by rigorous qualitative analysis and interpretation. Collaboration was identified as a critical element to accomplishing security objectives, some SSOs described a lack of prioritization of security, lack of awareness and understanding of transnational threats as being major risk factors to the security culture. Findings from this study may be used for positive social change by local, state, and federal policy makers, law enforcement executives, industry leaders, academic scholars, and the public to cultivate a contemporary understanding of transnational threats to maritime systems.