Tokyo tightening waterfront security ahead of Olympics

JIJI

Tokyo police will beef up security in waterfront areas to guard against terrorist attacks from the sea during the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Events for the Tokyo Games are scheduled to take place at 43 venues in nine prefectures, and 14 of them, as well as the athletes village and the media center, will be located around the port of Tokyo.

Haneda airport, which will be used by athletes, officials and foreign dignitaries during the Olympics, also faces the sea, requiring a great deal of caution against the possibility of terrorists approaching the facility in small boats.

When Japan hosted the 2016 Group of Seven summit on the island of Kashikojima in Shima, Mie Prefecture, ships and planes were banned from going near the island. In addition, sonar and acoustic cameras were installed under the water to detect suspicious objects.

Following this example, Tokyo police will restrict ship operations near the competition venues and other facilities on the waterfront during the Olympics, while considering introducing state-of-the-art security equipment.

The Metropolitan Police Department will also tighten its crackdown on reckless pleasure boats and other watercraft, based on a metropolitan government ordinance brought into force last month for ensuring safety on waterways.

Next year, the police will set up a jet boat unit, made up of dozens of officers from the riot police unit’s anti-firearms squad, to counter terrorists who might approach the competition venues or Haneda airport.

The Japan Coast Guard is enhancing its security activities using patrol ships and aircraft.

In July last year, Tokyo police and the Coast Guard conducted a joint drill against a terrorist attack in waters near Sea Forest Waterway in Koto Ward, which will host Olympic canoeing and rowing events. During the exercise they practiced chasing a suspicious ship and apprehending terrorists carrying explosives.

On July 24 this year, exactly two years before the Olympics opening ceremony, the police and the Coast Guard again carried out a joint drill off Koto Ward, assuming that a water bus with about 40 officials inspecting venue construction sites had been assaulted by two gun-wielding men in a pleasure boat. The two men were seized after their boat was chased by police and Coast Guard vessels.

In another part of the exercise, two men took a female police officer hostage aboard a train on the Yurikamome automated transit line in the waterfront area. After the train was guided to a switching yard, officers from the anti-firearms squad captured the two mock attackers.

The Tokyo police are also beefing up their presence at Haneda airport.

A new facility adjacent to the airport is to be built by 2020. Anti-terrorist officers and explosive sniffer dogs will be stationed there at all times.

The police will have to guard a wide range of waterfront facilities, including “hotel ships,” during the games.

A new terminal capable of accommodating huge cruise ships is due to be built, and many large ocean liners are expected to visit the port during the Olympics. Some of them are likely to be used as floating hotels.

“No Olympics have had so many competition venues and other facilities very near the sea. Because there’s no precedent, we’re scrambling,” said a senior official in the police headquarters for security for the games.

When Tokyo hosted the Olympics in 1964, most of the competition venues were located away from the sea.