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Ten Air Cargo Commandments for Improved Security

 Author(s): Steve Vinsik, Posted 08/29/11

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Today’s air cargo shippers and ports are under more pressure than ever to handle increasing cargo volumes, manage congestion, address changing customer needs and thrive in the midst of intense competition. I have compiled a list of ten commandants that I believe air cargo shippers, service providers and international governments should follow to ensure security throughout the larger supply chain.

  1. Acknowledge a public concern for air cargo security. Results released in May 2011 from the Unisys Security Index, a semi-annual survey of consumer opinion on multiple dimensions of security, showed that 56 percent of Americans saw cargo transported by air, sea or land as extremely or very vulnerable to malicious or terrorist attack. Acknowledging the public has yet to feel satisfied with the level of security surrounding air cargo transport is the first step to solving the problem.
  2. Create a more international mandate. The air cargo industry needs something similar to International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) code. We need to follow a global set of standards to reduce the threat of terrorism at all ports of entry to every country.
  3. Apply political pressure. In November, the U.S. government introduced air cargo security legislation, but it has not yet been brought up for vote. In addition, the EU’s 27 member states are considering proposals to tighten air cargo security. The legislative limbo process does not allow us to make changes quickly enough. We need to push this issue to the top of governments’ agendas and pressure our politicians to work deliberately to solve the problem.
  4. Attack the problem as a whole—not piecemeal. Addressing the problem one airfreight at a time is not enough. We need to establish a secure global supply chain that provides visibility into all key touch points of the air cargo transport life cycle.
  5. Implement positive identification solutions. Simple document verification devices—like an inexpensive card reader that can verify that a driving license is valid by examining the hologram or the raised lettering of the license—are easy to implement and can make a big difference.
  6. Analyze big data. Governments should leverage complex analytical targeting systems to identify the point of origin, shippers name and specific package contents for every single package. This way we won’t lose visibility into cargo as it moves along the supply chain.
  7. Bolster physical security. In addition to seals, video surveillance and RFID tags on cargo and personnel, we must continually look to new, innovative technologies that help security personnel do their job better. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Automated Manifest System and Automatic Targeting System serve as example innovative solutions that ensure unauthorized personnel cannot tamper with cargo.
  8. Perfect your procedural reflexes. The ability to quickly react and respond to intelligence can be the difference between life and death. By collaborating on intelligence tools and standardized data with countries around the world, we can detect and stop terrorist activities immediately.
  9. Assess service providers. Service providers play a significant role in the larger supply chain. We should expand the U.S. Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism and the Certified Cargo Screening Program to enable real-time compliance reporting mechanisms for continuous compliance.
  10. Persist in policy and technology. Everyone involved in the air cargo supply chain can take steps toward improvement. Service providers need to proactively improve the level of data they collect at origin and throughout the shipping process, industry bodies need to expedite the creation and adoption of security data standards, and governments need to establish improved information sharing practices to get intelligence to the front lines quickly.

Do you have any additional ideas on what we can do, collectively, to improve air cargo security?


The statements posted on this blog are those of the writer alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unisys.

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