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Ocean cargo news: Port security still among biggest challenges for shippers

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
May 25, 2010

While it is not always a top of mind topic given the myriad challenges shippers face at any time, the issue of port security is never truly too far away.

That much was made clear during the keynote address at the recentNational Shippers Strategic Transportation Council (NASSTRAC) Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida by Colonel Randall Larsen, USAF (Ret.) Executive Director of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.

Larsen addressed a wide range of transportation security-related issues during his engaging remarks, but the ones that stuck out the most clearly were those focusing on securing our nation’s ports.

There are two elements to port security, according to Larsen: are we afraid bad weapons or something equivalent to that are going to come through our ports?; and the other being the actual physical security of our ports.

“People are focused on putting detectors on the seaside part of the port and are not putting anything on the land side of the port,” said Larsen. “If you read Al Quaeda operations manuals, they say ‘make your weapons inside the countries you are going to use them in’ and looking at their attacks that is what they do. If they want to use a dirty bomb to shut down a port, they bring it in on a truck on the land side not the sea side.”

Larsen then explained that despite this philosophy, Congress is not taking heed and making the right decisions when it comes to port security. Instead, Congress, he explained “does not really get” that concept.

He recalled a recent conversation he had with Beth Ann Rooney, chief of security at the Port of New York/New Jersey. When Larsen asked her about the concept of 100 percent scanning of all shipping containers, Rooney said that Congress wants ports to perform 100 percent container scanning but even if containers are being scanned—and the basic act of putting aluminum foil around a nuclear weapon can negate that procedure—it has no impact whatsoever on the 700,000 or so automobiles that come off of ro-ro vessels into the port on an annual basis and exit the port without being scanned and no plans to do so any time soon either.

At the end of the day, Larsen said education is the answer to better port security planning and processes.

“There are lots of problems in Washington in dealing with Congress, but if you take time to educate them, they will make the right decisions,” he said.

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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