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Intelligence and Technology Combined Can Help Protect Air Cargo

 Author(s): Steve Vinsik, Posted 11/8/10

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The recent attempted terrorist attack, in which terrorists hid explosives in toner cartridges and shipped them to the United States in cargo planes, have brought to the surface the chain of trust and security that must be established in order to operate a secure supply chain. While this most recent attack is believed to have targeted the United States, this is a global issue and goes to the heart of supply chain security.

Today’s supply chain security is based on trust, some level of inspection, and intelligence. We trust that a facility accepting a package at the point of origin will conduct their due diligence on the cargo in question and validate the shipper’s identification credential to prove they are who they say they are.

It is not difficult or expensive to require that each location accepting packages for delivery via air cargo require a device to authenticate the identity credential presented by anyone dropping off items for shipment. If a country doesn’t require it or if a company doesn’t require this type of credential validation then they should not be permitted to be part of the supply chain. It should be that simple.

Packages must be inspected at various points in the supply chain from point of origin to intermediary destinations. It is simply not feasible to screen every piece of cargo, because that would require screening every individual item in a pallet of cargo – which could number in the hundreds or thousands for each pallet.

Also, many of the technologies available to screen cargo today are not effective in identifying bomb material such as the PETN in the printer-bombs. In addition, the technology to screen cargo is expensive, and developing countries can’t afford it and are not required by international regulation to use it.

Intelligence analysis tools to detect suspicious shipment patterns, combined with targeted screening of air cargo, would be the ideal mix to secure the supply chain.  The ability to quickly react and respond to intelligence is what stopped the printer-bombs from reaching their final destination. Sharing intelligence information with countries around the world must be expanded in order to obtain the visibility needed to detect and stop these terrorist activities.

At the end of the day, we are only as strong as our weakest link. And in the supply chain, there remains much to do in order to properly secure air cargo.


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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