Safe and Sound?

Three years after the worst terrorist attack on U.S soil, our panic may have subsided, but our vigilance shouldn’t slacken. Although another assault could conceivably occur at any time, anywhere, the supply chain is especially vulnerable and needs to be shored up, industry experts warn. Last October, a report from Forrester Research Inc. came right out and said it: “The next terrorist attack is likely to be staged through a supply chain.” Be particularly careful if you handle freight transportation, the report cautioned: “With 80% of global freight moving by sea, terrorists can manipulate weak points in U.S. supply chains to either enter the country or smuggle weapons of mass destruction.”

According to the report, government-led security initiatives don’t do a complete job of protecting the supply chain because they rely on voluntary private sector cooperation. But some of these programs are worth a second look because of the many secondary benefits they offer. The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), in particular, offers members “customized applications of guidelines, reduced inspections, access to free and secure trade, and reduced cargo theft and pilferage,” says Jose Parrondo, a Miami-based supply chain specialist with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

What’s essential to remember, says Christian Corrado, vice president of customer support at APL Logistics, is that our definition of cargo security has changed. “Pre-9/11, we needed real-time operations information, such as, ‘Which container has my cargo?’ and ‘Where is my cargo?’” Corrado said at a recent 3PL conference. “Post- 9/11, our focus is on cargo security and prohibiting WMDs.”

Physical barriers, Corrado noted, are unreliable — cargo seals vary in quality and technology and are easily broken; “smart” containers need to be secured on all six sides and present other problems (“What are the components of a smart container? Where should it be monitored? Who should pay for it?”). In the end, Corrado pointed out, nothing works as well as “knowing the supplier and what’s in the box at the start of cargo custody.”

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