Like much of the action development
process, scouting is a combination of the artistic and mechanical. It
can involve something as simple as looking over the place you want to
sit down in the road or picket. Or it can be complex, involving great
amounts of background research, repeated visits, or unpalatable risks.
Mechanically, an activist scouts the physical qualities of the potential
action site. Hazards, access, and assembly points are typical scouting
objectives. They have enough of a sense of timing and proportion to judge
whether the project is feasible-and what it would take. With practice,
good scouts see (or research) the subtler physical qualities. Weather
and lighting, useful symbols of "the other side", traffic and
security patterns would fall into this category. Artistically, experienced
scouts (and action coordinators) can look at the site and almost see the
action unfolding. They anticipate the reactions of other participants
in the action. These include bystanders, workers, the curious, police,
and media people. They have a sense of the timing and flow of the action.
The artistic side of the scout can see the symbolic quality of the action
and the action site as a political performance space-with an edge. For
most of us its a lot easier to become a great mechanic than a great artist.
So most of what Ruckus focuses on in this section is the practice of scouting.
There is a method to it which we can learn from each other. Developing
scouting abilities depends on a lively discussion of technique and results.
One note: for the purposes of this section we'll focus on the skills to
do a fairly complex scout. Activists can scale down to an appropriate
Disguise idea, sponsored by Cheetos
Preparing for the Scout
Before you can prepare for the scout
it is prudent to revisit some of your assumptions regarding the action.
Is the potential action appropriate to the campaign at this particular
time? Is it proportionate to the seriousness of the issue? Will the action
speak to the problem? Will it be visible and understandable to its target
audience? It is likely we will have to ask ourselves these questions several
times during the scouting process.
Good scouting usually begins with
good research. Good background research can reveal difficult-to-see potential.
It even helps get us in the right frame of mind. Often, your potential
action site is far away and you don't want to make repeated trips. So
if you haven't been to the potential action site try to visualize it.
What have you heard about it? What do you know about similar sites or
facilities? Do any of your colleagues have experience useful to your project?
A good bit of scouting is, in effect, brainstorming about "what-if.
" Ask yourself what will enhance this creative process. We find scouting
is often most effective - and usually more fun - when done by a group.
Who should be on the scouting team? Sometimes the team can be enhanced
by friends who might not even be activists. Artists or photographers,
Scouting From A To Z: What
Should I Bring?
- Addresses. Not just of the place
you are scouting but maybe your lawyer as well. I make it a habit of
writing address and contact numbers on my forearm in indelible ink before
a scout or action.
- Aerial Photos. There are many
sources of aerial photos. One of the best is the EROS Data Center in
Sioux Falls, SD. This is a US Government source. Besides high-level
aerial photos they also provide LandSat imagery in a variety of formats.
- Aeronautical Charts. Another
useful form of mapping. Aeronautical charts, besides being useful for
navigation, can also provide additional detail not seen on topographic
maps particularly in remote regions. Aeronauticals are updated much
more frequently than topographics.
- Baby Wipes. Those lanolin soaked
towels can be just the thing to get some of that industrial grime off
until you can get to a proper wash-up. Saves your water for drinking
and it's nice to have clean hands for eating.
- Baseball Cap. A baseball cap
can be more useful than you first think. In brushy country it can help
keep stuff out of your eyes. They are also particularly useful at night
when you can use the brim of the cap to screen out unwanted light allowing
you to peer into those dark areas with more effectiveness.
- Bear Mace. Avoid guard dogs as
a rule. Sometimes you just don't know if one is around however. And
you could sustain a nasty injury if surprised. Bear mace can help, but
be aware someone might think it is a weapon.
- Boat Kit. If you're going out
on the water make sure your vessel has the basic emergency and repair
items. Everyone should have a life preserver.
- Binoculars. Often very useful,
I consider them part of the basic scouting kit. Binoculars are described
by two numbers, 8 x 35, for example. The first number is the magnification
and the second is the width of the field of view. For land-use magnifications
of 8 to 10 times are good. On the water, where its hard to keep the
binoculars stable, a seven power magnification is often used. Top line
binoculars, such as Steiners, may have a built-in compass and reticule
(an etched scale useful in estimating heights and distances).
- Boots or hip-waders. Keep those
doggies dry! And sometimes the wettest way in is the path of least attention.
- Bug repellent. When you want
to sit still, you don't want to be swatting mosquitoes. A bit of bug
repellent can make those long stakeouts a little more tolerable.
- Camera, with correct lenses.
An essential tool for most scouts. A picture can be worth a thousand
words. In some cases the camera catches detail that the eye misses.
It helps you remember detail. Take lots of photos. If necessary, do
a sketch map of the different shots and angles. A 50mm lens together
with a zoom is a good basic kit. Make sure you have extra batteries
for the camera.
- Carpeting. Nothing like a good
old 3 x 5 foot square of carpet thrown over the barbwire to make your
fence crossing a little less difficult. Fuzzy side towards the barbs
for better grip.
- Celestron. Celestron is a good,
affordable, high-magnification telescope. It provides greater viewing
ability than spotting scopes and can be fitted with camera or video
- City Maps. Especially if you're
scouting in an unfamiliar city. It will help you in planning the action.
- Coastal Pilot. A coastal pilot
is an accompaniment to nautical charts and is an excellent source when
scouting marine or harbor actions. A coastal pilot gives harbor regulations,
layout, and procedures. It tells what frequencies shipping and harbor
pilots use. A coastal pilot also provides weather summaries.
- Communications gear. You may
want to have gear to communicate with other team members or lookouts.
If the action you are planning requires the use of communication gear
you need to test it on-site as part of the scout. Interference from
electrical equipment, distances that are too great for the equipment,
and other users on your channel are more common than you think. Scout
electronically as well as physically!
- Compass. As an accompaniment
to your map. Look for a good liquid-filled model. (The needle settles
quicker). A sighting compass is the most useful.
- Coveralls. Scouting can be a
dirty, even toxic, activity. A good set of coveralls can help keep your
better clothes clean. And if you are spotted while scouting ditching
your coveralls can give you a new look quickly. In some cases, coveralls
can be used as a disguise. Workers might not get the attention idle
- Digital Cameras. Although they
don't yet have the range of lens choice that conventional cameras enjoy,
digitals have some useful features. One is no developing time-the images
are available for instantaneous use. An the imagery can be sent via
modem to co-conspirators.
- Doggie treats. Sometimes you
encounter a dog who is not really a guard dog-just noisy. A big fat
doggie treat sometimes will convince them to quiet down.
- Doubler. A quick and dirty method
of getting more out of your camera lenses. A doubler does just that:
it doubles the magnification of your lenses and is a cheaper alternative
to buying another long lens.
- Duct Tape. No explanation needed.
I keep some wrapped on my water bottle.
- Dry Bags. Originally invented
by river rafters, these bags are made out of neoprene or rubberized
ballistics cloth. They roll up at the neck and-when in good repair-are
virtually submersible. They come in a number of sizes and styles. Some
even have detachable backpack straps.
- Electronic measuring tapes. Sometimes
it is just too damn obvious when you pull out that honkin' hundred foot
tape and begin measuring the senator's office. The solution is an infrared
tape measure -- they don't cost that much and are very unobtrusive.
Point and push the button.
- En-route Maps and Directions.
Usually when scouting you want to spend the minimum time needed to get
the job done. Waiting for the other car or party to show up increases
your chance of detection. Little things, like complete en-route maps
and directions, can mean a lot.
- Facility Blueprints. Usually
part of your background research, sometimes having a good set of blueprints
can help you make sense out of a complicated industrial site or sprawling
train yard, for example. Most cities require these to be filed with
some entity of government -- it varies from place to place. Most municipalities
consider these to be public documents.
- Film and filters. Think about
the photographic conditions for your scout and what you want to get
out of the photos. Color film is almost universally preferred. Slides
take longer to process but often are less grainy than color print film.
Also, using a projector you can enlarge the image more easily than with
print film. In extreme low-light conditions infrared film has been used.
(It can be used with a normal camera). Polarizing or skylight filters
can cut haze and help capture detail, especially in bright light, as
well as help to protect the lens.
- First Aid kit. If there is a
substantial chance someone might get hurt, carry a minimal first aid
kit containing bandages and antibacterial cream.
- Foam Pad. Closed-cell foam, such
as ensolite, can make those long waits a bit more comfortable. You don't
need enough to lie on-just a 18" x 30" piece to sit on and
- FM (49 MHz) Headsets. These cheap,
two way radios are so limited in range they are almost useless in scouting
or action situations. One place where I have used them with success
is for quiet communications between scouting team members. In 1989,
we infiltrated an action team, video team and photographer to the heart
of an AlCan aluminum smelter in Canada – coordinating the movement
with FM headsets. Most of these units have hands-free, voice-activated
microphones (VOX). In cold weather, condensation from breathing has
caused them to fail.
- Frequency Counter. This small
electronic device digitally reads out strong, nearby radio frequencies
in use. Consider their limited use in urban areas due to the enormous
"radio clutter." But even in urban areas they can be useful
right at the scene of activity-especially if you can see the other side
operating their radios. In the forests, where there is very little radio
usage, frequency counters have been used as early warning systems by
activists entering closed areas. If someone was hunting for them they'd
most likely be coordinating by radio.
- Frequency Guides. Used in conjunction
with a scanner, these commonly available guides do a pretty good job
of showing what frequencies the other side is using. Police Call by
Radio Shack is a popular choice. Program the frequencies into your scanner
and listen for traffic. If it doesn't seem like you're hearing what
you should, other methods will have to be employed.
- Gloves. Your hands can take an
enormous beating while scouting. Good leather gloves can be worth their
weight in gold. Basic equipment for scouting industrial sites and a
must for crossing barbed or razor wire.
- Global Positioning System (GPS)
Receivers. GPS has come way down in cost in recent years making it fairly
affordable for activists. GPS makes back-country navigation all the
easier-especially when operating off-trail. It's also useful when checking
timber sale boundaries or when logging endangered species locations.
With GPS the more you pay, the greater the accuracy. Costs on this technology
is coming down fast.
- Hardhat and Clipboard. One of
the universal disguises. It's amazing how people will notice, then tune
out certain "normal" scenes. Hardhat and clipboard, coveralls
or generic uniforms all seem to have this effect.
- Headlamp with extra batteries.
Hand-held flashlights can be frustrating, even dangerous, to use. A
headlamp is a much better choice. On the upper end I look for a focusable
beam with a battery pack that you where inside your clothing as some
batteries lose 40% of their power in cold weather. Also, try to avoid
those that require strange batteries.
- Identification. Whether to carry
identification on a scout has been endlessly debated. Here's a good
rule of thumb: If you get caught and you probably can talk your way
out, you don't need ID If the cops or company security become involved,
you probably will need identification. They tend not to release you
until they are satisfied they know who you are.
- Light Meter. Light meters sometime
come in handy for those real early morning actions. When is it light
- Measuring tape. How big is the
pipe? How wide is the gate? The 25 foot model steel tape works well.
- Money. Each person in the scout
team should carry a little in case they get separated or picked up.
- Nautical Charts. Good for not
only what's on or in the water, but also what borders the water.
- Night Vision Equipment. Like
other consumer electronics these devices have come down in price in
recent years. There are two basic types: light amplification and infrared
models. The first uses the available light-even starlight. The second
type uses an infrared source to "light up" the object or scene
and then this reflected light is read by the viewer. Some models can
be mounted with cameras or video.
- Notepad with pencils or pens.
You can also purchase waterproof paper and pens for inclement field
- Pager. Some activists have had
success using pagers as a device to warn or communicate with an on-site
- Pedometer. A device that tells
you how far you have walked.
- Pelican Case. Similar to a dry
bag, these waterproof plastic boxes are a good solution when dry and
impact resistance is needed. Many cases have customizable foam inserts.
Also a good choice for protecting sensitive electronic or camera gear
in poor conditions.
- Plastic Bags. Ziplocks to keep
all those little things that need to stay dry, dry.
- Proper Clothing. Many a scout
has been cut prematurely short by wet or frozen activists. Conditions
can change, be ready.
- Raingear. The theory goes that
rain gear is actually rain prevention gear. If you have it with you
it keeps the rain away. The opposite also seems to be true.
- Rake or Hoe. Sometimes the easiest
way past a fence is to go under rather than over it. With a rake or
hoe you can lay on your belly and clear a little slither room. Particularly
good if going over the fence would be too visible.
- Scanner Radio. A good electronic
scout is often a necessary part of an overall scout. Scanners come in
handheld and tabletop models. They are easy to use and often provide
a world of useful information. The electronics manual will provide more
detail on their use.
- Spotting Scope. Monocular or
binocular, these have higher magnifications than ordinary binoculars.
Because of the need to keep the wiggle down at higher magnifications
spotting scopes are frequently mounted on small tripods. Hunters and
bird watchers often use them.
- Survival Gear. If you're out
in the back country make sure you have at least minimal survival gear.
A broken ankle five miles in can literally become a life-threatening
experience. It might be a consideration to have someone with first aid
experience on your scouting team.
- Toxic Detection and Protection
Gear. In this day and age there is no reason why activists need to expose
themselves to hazardous materials. Get good advice on what you might
find and have the means to detect it and protect yourself. Industrial
supply catalogs are good sources for this equipment and information.
Many of the larger outfits have help lines for phone inquiries.
- Tape Recorder. If quiet isn't
a requirement speaking your notes into a tape recorder is a good, fast
way to get a lot of data. The small Radio Shack models with voice-operated
(VOX) microphones are good.
- Transistor Radio. Another way
to pass time on those long stakeouts.
- Video Camcorder. These can be
extremely useful scouting tools and are becoming increasingly popular.
One great thing about camcorders is you can record spoken notes right
on the tape. They often work in lower light than cameras, although they
lack the high magnification long camera lenses afford. Have extra batteries
- Watch. Another part of the basic
scouting tool kit. Time is relative to your adrenaline level: measure,
don't estimate. If it has a stopwatch, timer, and alarm all the better.
- Weather Information. Get a weather
forecast before each scout.
Scouting Intermodal Freight
Think of containerized shipping
as consisting of mode and node. The mode is the method of transport-ship,
rail, or truck. The node is where the containers are transferred from
one transport mode to another. IFFs can be difficult to scout -- you probably
will have to go back several times during the course of planning the action.
Your first scout or two will be general scouts-layout, distances, etc.
Even though your initial scouts are general always keep an eye out for
a good action. You never know when you're going to see something special.
IFF Scouting Tips
It pays to bring a good map of the
area. The distances, security, and water all hamper good access. Often
one must go to many different vantage points and assemble the overall
picture piece by piece. Your map-backed up by sketch maps and photos-will
greatly assist the process. Here are the type of questions your general
scout should answer: Begin by locating the principal transportation pathways.
Notice the traffic patterns. In ports, you will see mostly containers
arriving or leaving by ship. They are loaded or unloaded from trucks or
railcars. Very little of the containers will be transferred between rail
and truck. Where are the rail lines, ship berths, and roads? Are the points
of entry for each of these gated and/or guarded? Notice whether private
vehicles are permitted in the area. Locate the container storage and staging
areas. Where are the container handling vehicles stored?
Pay attention to the ship unloading
cranes as these are often the target of direct action. Are they fixed
in position or on railroad tracks? Are they stored in a particular location
when not in use? There are two basic types of container cranes: ones with
arms fixed horizontally, these often are rail-mounted, or ones whose arms
fold to allow over-height ships to pass below, these usually are rail-mounted
but can be fixed. When scouting a crane take lots of photos, particularly
of the access ladders. If the crane is folded up, is there a deck-mounted
ladder that would ease access to the end of the arm?
As mentioned above, the containers
most often are removed from the ship and transferred to rail cars. These
rail cars are also very vulnerable to direct action. Pay attention to
the layout of the small freight yard that services the dock area. In general,
freight yards have 4 major areas:
- The inbound yard, where loaded
or unloaded freight cars arrive. This is where trains are "broken
- The outbound yard, loaded or
unloaded waiting to leave. This is where trains are "assembled."
- Storage tracks, where unused
cars are stored or juggled.
- Maintenance and power storage
areas. The yard engines stay here while not in use.
Chaining oneself to the ends of
the trains, to the tracks, or to switches all can seriously disrupt freight
operations. An important note of caution regarding train actions: it is
essential you control BOTH ends of any train you are doing an action on,
even if the end is out of sight!
Road And Truck Access
In general, controlling road and
truck access is more difficult than rail actions in that there is usually
many more points of access or routing. Still this important aspect of
container facility operation should not be automatically dismissed. How
many gates do the trucks normally enter through? Are they guarded? Are
the ships loading directly onto the trucks? If so, is there a particular
location for this? Are the trucks being loaded from storage by container
handling equipment? Any of these operations may be vulnerable to direct
Depending on the location, cargo,
company policy, or local conditions security can range from good to none.
Rarely will a container facility's security be described as airtight,
they are simply too wide-open to cover effectively. Nevertheless, an assessment
of the security is an essential part of any scout.
First, notice whether there is security
at the facility, often there is not. Is it private security or Port police?
Often there is a larger lag time in reaction, if it is a private security
force. If you see private security people, are they there for gate control,
patrolling, or both? Do they use marked or unmarked cars for their patrols?
Are they radio-equipped? Look for where the guards hang out while not
patrolling. Do they eat on or off-site? If on-site is there a particular
building where they eat? Does a lunch wagon come at a certain time each
day? Are the guards in uniform? Are they armed? Do they carry mace, clubs,
handcuffs, etc.? In general the more heavily equipped the more vigilant
guards tend to be. Do they have time-clock boxes that they must insert
a key into at various points on their rounds? Do the guards carry radios?
Another important element of security
scouting is alarms and video monitors. In general, alarms are used to
prevent access to buildings and, less frequently, to cranes. They are
rarely used for perimeter or outdoor security since video monitors are
more useful. There are two basic types of infra-red alarms: using one
or two monitors. The two-monitor type have a transmitter and if you interrupt
the beam, the alarm will sound. These units are usually around waist-high,
particularly when outside, so animals won't set them off. The second type
of monitor is the "motion detector" style, similar to what you
see at supermarket front doors. It is usually a single unit covering a
fan-shaped area. They are extremely effective for indoor security. My
advice is: if you're inside and see one it has probably already seen you.
Video surveillance cameras can be fixed or moveable. The moveable ones
can automatically sweep over a preset arc (notice the time of sweep) or
pan by remote control.
If you can't avoid a video camera,
you can often harmlessly disable it with spray starch. Here's how its
done: tape the can of spray starch to the end of a pole of sufficient
reach. Take a strap hinge and tape one leg alongside the can. The other
leg should cross over the spray button, make sure it's all facing the
right direction. Tie a string to the end of the crossover leg and run
it down the length of the pole. Aim the can and pull the string. Long-distance
starch painting, voila!
We discussed the advantages of using
a scanner to listen to port operations regarding the ship's arrival-the
scanner is also very useful in scouting the shoreside facility. As with
the marine operations, the goal is to assemble a list of frequencies that
will be useful before or during the action. Examples of these could be
the security, fire, police, port police, news bureaus, and/or private
contractors servicing the facility. Using the scanner before the action
helps one understand the cargo operations and security arrangements. Using
a scanner during the action gives you information that will help you anticipate
moves by the other side.
There are six principal ways to
assemble the list of useful frequencies: frequency guides, FCC database
searches, BBS inquiries, spectrum analysis, frequency counters, or your
There are a number of commercially
available frequency guides on the market today. Radio Shack's Police Call
is probably the most well-known. In addition, a number of specialized
guides, such as US Government frequencies, are also available. The use
of these handbooks is fairly straightforward: the tables are arranged
by location. First look up the location, then look up the particular entities
you are interested in.
FCC database searches
Often the scanner guides are not
complete or completely up to date. A more sophisticated approach to the
search is to use commercially available software to access the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) frequency database. This database contains
the records of all FCC licensed transmitters. You can search by location,
license-holder, company name, area, etc. In general, it is too costly
and difficult to get into FCC database searching for just one action.
I would suggest looking for another organization that may already have
As the popularity of scanning has
increased, a number of computer bulletin boards (BBS) have arisen dedicated
to this activity. One such BBS is Scancom at 904-878-4413. In general,
this is a roundabout way to search for frequencies but it could pay off
for some difficult problems. A BBS member might have the frequencies you
are looking for and putting up an information request is pretty easy.
ScanCom also could recommend a BBS more local to your area.
See also Scancom mailing list:
A spectrum analyzer is a device
which reads and video-displays the broadcast spectrum. SAs are sophisticated
devices-usually costing around $2000 that take a trained operator to use.
They are, however, incredibly accurate. You see everything: licensed,
unlicensed, listed, unlisted-even "secret" government frequencies.
Again, it's best to hook up with someone who is already set up for this
kind of searching.
These are rather simple devices
which, when turned on, read out the frequency of the strongest signal
it receives. In general, these units are of little value except in one
circumstance: if you were in close proximity to, say, the guard as he
keyed his radio. His transmit frequency would show up on your frequency
counter. Counters generally cost around $200. Opto-Electronics used to
make a serviceable model.
One of the easiest, although tedious,
methods of getting the other sides frequency is by doing "limit searches"
using your own scanner. In a limit scan, the searcher sets a high and
low frequency and the scanner cycles between them (at predetermined increments).
Commercial, public safety, and military all have specific bands assigned.
The scanner guides will help you identify them. A helpful shortcut, if
your target is, for example, the guards at a specific port facility is
to look closely at the size and shape of the antennas. By matching them
up with the pictures in the scanner guide you can figure out which band
you need to scan.
Scouting Timber Ship Actions
There are several basic types of
ship actions: directed against military, civilian, commercial, or private
vessels; actions upon arrival or departure; and actions against the cargo,
crew, or the vessel itself. These distinctions are more than theoretical,
each situation requires specific research and preparation. For the purposes
of this guide we will focus on an action against inbound timber vessels
or those which have arrived and are attempting to off-load cargo.
The Timber Trade And Vessel
Before being able to identify the
target vessel one must have a reasonably accurate picture of the timber
trade in general. Tropical timber products (TTPs) come in many forms:
as raw logs, sawn lumber, veneers, and finished products such as furniture,
knick-knacks, or chopsticks. TTPs are mostly transported by ship due to
their weight and because the shipments are generally not time-sensitive.
The shipments take two forms: as bulk cargo or in containers. Raw logs
and sawn lumber can be bulk-shipped, all else is containerized to protect
from damage. From previous research (1990-96) we've found the vast majority
of TTPs entering the US is containerized. We apparently found some bulk
shipped products coming into East Coast ports. The small amount of bulk
imports are probably going to East Coast veneer mills or small manufacturing
plants. We've found no bulk imports entering West Coast ports (1991).
Given the geographical requirements of the action we can assume that the
targeted imports will be containerized.
An ever-increasing proportion of
freight shipped today is containerized. Once the container is packed and
sealed, it can be carried by rail, truck, or ship-hence the name "intermodal
shipping container" (ISCs). There are a number of advantages to ISCs.
The containers can be filled at numerous, decentralized locations. They
can be transported to collection points by any of the three "modes."
Once the containers arrive at the centralization points their uniformity
allows ease of handling, loading, and unloading. Most importantly, this
ease of handling greatly reduces labor costs. Containers range from 15
to 40 feet and can handle loads up to 30 tons. They are stackable up to
nine or ten high, using small interlocks on each of the corners. There
are always markings on the outside of the container, listing the owner,
operating agent, and physical specifications of the container. Occasionally
a small paper invoice will be tucked into the handle area but this is
rare, and most often seen on rail carried containers. In general, there
are no markings outside that will identify the contents. Some modern container
facilities have begun using a laser-scanned color bar code system similar
to what is found on grocery packaging. These bar codes are on the side
of the container on a patch approximately 12 x 24 inches. Instead of the
simple black and white bars of grocery packaging these patches are multicolored.
If an activist wanted to apply pressure to the shipping company, one possible
way would be to use colored electrical tape to alter these bar codes-disrupting
the automated tracking and inventory systems. Even the threat of this
might feel substantial since these alterations could be performed anywhere
on the containers journey. There is a wide variety of container handling
equipment in use, but all work by one of two methods. Either the machine
lifts the container from underneath or it locks into the stacking/handling
fixtures on the top corners and lifts from above. In general, the lift
from below equipment resembles a large forklift (and is generally smaller)
while the lift from above equipment can resemble either a marine travellift
(a table with each leg having a wheel) or a crane. The crane lifts are
of particular interest to action aficionados due to their vulnerability
to direct action. Containerized cargo also presents a couple challenges
in an action context. A major problem is the "anonymity" of
the cargo. Given that a ship will often be loaded with hundreds of virtually
identical containers carrying a variety of products, it's virtually impossible
to determine which, if any, have the targeted imports. Credible deniability
by the shipper could put egg on a campaigner's face. Another concern of
lesser importance is the charge that the stuff may be aboard but you're
affecting a lot of innocent people by the action. A positive and well
thought out response should be ready.
Developing The Action/strategic
We know that TTPs come into a large
number of ports, seldom on fixed schedules, on a wide variety of vessels,
and are often handled by different shore side agents and shippers. In
order to develop the action, begin with what's known. Factors such as
costs, media concerns, legal liabilities, location of people or material
resources will narrow the possibilities. P.I.E.R.S (Port Import Export
Research Service) is a very valuable tool in the search for timber imports.
Working off US Customs Service manifests, PIERS develops an historical
picture of the import/export trade. Port of entry or departure, commodity
name, agent, shipper, vessel name and quantities are all included in these
profiles. When using this service it's important to note that the information
has several limitations. The information is never completely current.
In general, there is a 4-6 week lag in processing export information while
import info lags 1-2 weeks. Another limitation using PIERS is the expense.
Subscribers are not charged by the "search" but for the number
of "records" each search turns up. In order to limit the breadth
of the inquiry the user develops "keywords" as search criteria.
Typical keywords are the port name, product name or, if pertinent, the
name of the shipper, vessel, or agent. Because of these reasons the optimum
way to do a search is to team up someone who has expert knowledge of the
timber trade with a PIERS operator who has a good knowledge of what keywords
will effectively narrow the request. In one infamous incident a marine
mammal researcher (using a different system) asked for all articles in
the past six months on dolphins. Unfortunately, the Miami Dolphins had
just won the Super Bowl-this request cost hundreds of dollars. Take care
developing your keywords.
Using Piers Data: Patterns
The first thing to do with your
PIERS search is to look for any apparent patterns. Is there one ship that
seems to always be carrying TTPs? Is one agent or shipper handling the
business? Do the ships always seem to be going to one port facility? Most
often one needs to cross-reference the PIERS data with information from
other sources. This cross referencing is where the real detective work
of developing the action comes in. Sometimes this work can be difficult
and the results elusive. It's important that one proceeds methodically
in the investigation. Keep detailed notes as a piece of information that
now seems insignificant may be the key later. Here are some other sources
of information that are often useful:
Journal Of Commerce
The JoC is a national business daily
focusing on trade. It contains lots of information generally useful to
activists. The portion of the JoC that is particularly useful in terms
of ship actions is towards the back of the paper in a section called "ship-cards."
The ship-cards list the arrival and departure times of all regularly scheduled
shipping, as well as listing the ports of call for the vessel. The ship-cards
are particularly useful in cross-referencing PIERS data. Unfortunately,
the JoC subscription is over $200/yr, but most major public libraries
Most major ports have what's called
a "Marine Exchange" (ME). These are quasi-governmental non-profit
organizations offering a range of services to ships, companies, and individuals
involved in the shipping business. Most MEs offer a range of office services
as well as historical records and an "intelligence network.".
An important service of the ME is to offer daily mail-outs or faxes giving
vessel arrival and departure times. This information is generally up-to-date
accurate, more so than the ship-cards. Quoting from the Puget Sound Marine
Exchange handout: "The services described... provide a constant flow
on information through the Marine Exchange from its membership. This information
is augmented by periodicals, other marine exchanges, other industry workers,
and various sources to allow the Marine Exchange to present a unique,
very accurate picture of vessel and port activity...". The following
ports offer ME services (1990 survey): Boston, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia,
Baltimore, Hampton Roads (Chesepeake Bay), New Orleans, Western Gulf of
Mexico, Los Angeles\Long Beach, San Francisco Bay Region, Portland Puget
Sound (All Washington State waters). Typical membership rates are $45/month
for mailouts or $75/month for fax service. If you wish to subscribe, a
good cover is to describe yourself as a cargo brokerage consultant.
SeaData is another subscription
information service offering vessel profiles. A typical profile will physically
describe the ship: draft, length, tonnage, speed, etc. The owner, lessor,
agents, and operators are often provided. A particular interest: SeaData
often can re-create the last couple months of a ship's schedule-offering
some predictability. SeaData is very expensive, about $3,500/year. The
cost of individual profiles are quite modest, less than $10 each. If one
wanted a SeaData profile go through another group who already has a subscription.
Lloyd's Tracker Service
An offshoot of the Lloyd's Insurance,
LTS will tell you where a particular ship is anywhere in the world usually
on the same day as the request is made. The cost is approximately $200/search.
Developing The Action / Tactical
The various research tools described
above are used to identify the port of entry and target vessel of the
action. Further research is usually needed before effective scouting can
begin. Here is a list of other good sources of information useful in planning
NOAA Coast Pilots
NOAA Coast Pilots are books meant
to be used in conjunction with nautical charts. They are published by
the US Government and are available wherever charts are sold. Here are
some of the useful things you can learn from the pilot. (We'll use Coast
Pilot #7 (US West Coast) and Los Angeles as an example.) Chapter 1, pg
23. A list of the VHF-FM radio frequency allocations. Chapter 2, pg 32-33.
Location and description of ship anchorages in Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Chapter 2, pg 76. Pilotage regulations for Los Angeles. Chapter 2, pg
104-107. A general description of the weather on the West Coast. Chapter
4, pg 117-126. Detailed descriptions of the layout and operation of Los
Angeles, Long Beach, and San Pedro harbors. Appendix, pg T-1. Detailed
weather information for Los Angeles.
Harbor Pilots, Harbor Tugs,
And Vessel Traffic Service (VTS)
These three services are most useful
immediately before the action. An inbound ship must call for a harbor
pilot, often giving up to 8 hours notice of arrival. The pilot goes aboard
the ship at a place outside the harbor called the precautionary area.
If one is listening with a vhf radio or scanner you will often hear the
Some activists have simply called
the pilot service by phone and asked when the "pilot for vessel _____
was called for." Details about the pilotage requirements and radio
working frequencies are found in the Coast Pilot. Once a ship enters the
breakwater tugs are often necessary (or required by statute) to get the
vessel into its berth. Like the pilot call radio conversations between
the tug and ship will signal immediate arrival. Most large harbors have
what's called Vessel Traffic Service (VTS). These services monitor the
movements of all shipping from the precautionary area in. In some harbors,
reporting to VTS is voluntary, in others it's mandatory. Large ships always
report in. Again, by listening to your scanner, VTS will provide refined,
short-term info about your target vessel's movement.
Large ships use three principal
methods of communication: HF or MF radio, SATCOM, and VHF-FM radio. HF
and MF radios are also called "ham radios" although the commercial
frequency allocation is different from the amateur bands. These radios
can have ranges of several thousand miles but have several drawbacks that
are making them used less by large shipping. SATCOM (Satellite Communication)
is what's replacing HF radio. These systems look and operate like a regular
telephone utilizing a geostationary satellite for a relay. SatCom costs
about $12/minute and intercepting these communications is usually beyond
the ability of most activists. Some activists, (having gotten the SatCom
number of the target ship from SeaData or from the SatCom directory) have
simply phoned up the radio operator and asked their ETA. VHF-FM radio
is the principal short-distance means of communication for ships. Range
is determined by the height of the antenna above the water but 40-70 miles
for large ships is not uncommon. All ships are required to constantly
monitor channel 16 (the International hailing and distress frequency)
and most, also monitor a second, "working" frequency. In most
harbors, the ship will monitor 16, the VTS frequency, and the pilot frequency
(usually channel 12 or 13.). Again, consult the Coast Pilot for more details.
[From the "Ruckus Society Scouting