The warning has come at a conference on maritime security in Sydney.

Dr Alexey Muraviev from Curtin University in Western Australia, says security at Australian ports is poorer than at many ports in Europe and the United States.

Dr Muraviev says Australian businesses need to take the terrorist threat to ports far more seriously because the consequences could be devastating.

“After all, it is the business that will suffer if something terrible happens. Major ports are attached to major cities. We’re talking about Melbourne. We’re talking about Sydney. We’re talking about Brisbane. We’re talking about Perth. So an attack in a port would also effect a highly-populated area. It may lead to mass casualties and the economic implications would be quite severe and many industries would be affected.”

The Federal Government has committed 3.1 billion dollars to upgrade security at Australia’s ports over the next three years.

A global trade expert and former Australian Trade Ambassador Alan Oxley says this funding should help protect ports from the economic and trade consequences of a terrorist attack.

But he says Australian businesses still need to do a lot more work to match the commitment to fighting maritime terrorism shown by many Australian trading partners.

“That’s something that all business has got to do. I mean, Australian businesses are used to trading in global systems. They’re used to trading in part of US systems. If they don’t adopt systems that will enable them to verify that trade is safe, they’ll actually find themselves excluded from global trading arrangements, particularly relating to the US. I think the best way to put this is that the task is well ahead of everybody. There’s a lot to do.”