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Containing the Container Threat

Containing the Container Threat

By Sue Bushell

As the US Government intensifies efforts to improve maritime transportation security Unisys has warned shipping containers could easily be used to transport terrorists or their weapons including weapons of mass destruction into a target country.

Unisys director of port & cargo security programs, global public sector, Scott Glover told last month’s 2003 Homeland Security Conference in Canberra the worst-case scenario is a weapon of mass destruction being delivered to a country in a maritime cargo container. The only way to address this problem is by focusing on the point of origin and in-transit security procedures

“The new International Maritime Organisation (IMO) regulations, which ‘harden’ port facilities and commercial vessels, do nothing to protect against threats carried in the cargo containers,” Glover says. “The US Government is addressing this threat through cargo supply chain security initiatives.”

The Australian government is a signatory to the new IMO Security Convention and is developing legislation and regulations to implement the new requirements, but Glover says he is unaware of any efforts by the Australian government to implement supply chain security procedures.

“Development of a secure supply chain directly supports a nation’s efforts to identify problems before they arrive in their ports,” he says. “There is no silver bullet solution. Countries need to secure their borders.”

Glover says President Bush stated in the “National Strategy for Homeland Security” that “The US government has no more important mission than protecting the homeland from future terrorist attacks.”

The US government is focussing on a number of complementary programs in its efforts to improve maritime transportation security:

i. The Maritime Transportation Security Act ’02 implements the new International Maritime Organisation (IMO) SOLAS Security Code. The code requires development of security assessments, security plans and implementation of security measures and procedures based on the assessments and plans.

ii. The Container Security Initiative (CSI) – The purpose of CSI is to screen for high-risk containers in key ports overseas. Through the CSI, Customs is working with the foreign ports that send the highest volume of container traffic into the United States to facilitate the detection of potential problems in the supply chain at the earliest possible opportunity. Placement of a CSI team overseas allows Customs to work with foreign customs officials to identify and examine high-risk containers prior to their arrival at US ports.

iii. Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) - The purpose of C-TPAT is to improve global supply chain security in the private sector. This program calls upon importing businesses and service providers to establish policies to enhance their own security practices and those of business partners involved in the supply chain. Customs officials work in partnership with private industry, reviewing supply chain security plans and recommending improvements.

iv. Operation Safe Commerce (OSC) – Operation Safe Commerce is an innovative public-private partnership dedicated to enhance security throughout international and domestic supply chains while facilitating legitimate commerce. The object is to prevent terrorists or their weapons from gaining access to the United States. The goal of OSC is to explore commercially viable options that support cargo management systems

Operation Safe Commerce (OSC) builds upon existing freight and information systems and the Customs C-TPAT and CSI programs to identify best practices in supply chain security. Unisys sees it goal as exploring business processes and technology prototypes that protect commercial shipments from threat of terrorist attacks. The results will feed into new Federal standards for supply chain security, which Glover says the Government will need to publish as quickly as possible. As part of this project Unisys will develop best practice methodologies as recommendations.

“Current OSC (Operation Safe Commerce) pilots are intended to test supply chain security - technology, processes, and procedures - from foreign source manufacturers to US distribution centres. Unisys is conducting one of the pilots on a supply chain from Brazil to the Port of New York/New Jersey.

“The Operation Safe Commerce Process will involve identifying specific supply chains along particular trade routes, analysing every aspect of the supply chain from packaging to delivery for vulnerabilities,” Glover says. “Participating ports will provide plans to improve security throughout the supply chain.”

As well as addressing national security, he says the measures will also give businesses a commercial advantage through increased supply chain efficiency and theft minimisation.

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