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Seaport Security: Different strategies for reaching similar objective

By Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
July 06, 2010

America’s seaports are taking several different paths toward providing shippers with safe and secure commerce, LM learned last week in a series of interviews. And while some are more heavily reliant on sophisticated container screening systems, others are concentrating on vetting supply chain partners and intermediaries.

At the same time, all ports are mandated to comply with new U.S. regulatory rules while remaining poised to anticipate new changes in international law.

Any way you slice it, security will continue to be a market differentiator and competitive tool for our ocean cargo gateways well into the future.

However, since there are an estimated 360 seaports in the U.S., no single security solution fits every gateway, says American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) spokesman, Aaron Ellis. “Some ports are dealing solely with bulk and break bulk cargo, so container scanning is not going to work,” he says. “And others may chiefly have roll-on/roll off and project cargo,” he adds. “But for the major container ports, the standards are fairly uniform.”

Joe Lawless, the Massachusetts Port Authority’s (Massport) director of maritime security, agrees with Ellis, adding that 100 percent container screening will have to be customized to be effective. “Some ports will concentrate on screening for radiation, while others will place a higher emphasis concentration on routine inspection,” he says. “In any case, it’s one of the critical pieces that’s only being worked out right now.”

Lawless, who also serves as chairman of the AAPA’s Port Security Committee, will be meeting with his colleagues in New Orleans this month to discuss other issues related to port protection. Seaports worldwide annually handle roughly 1.5 billion tons of cargo worth over $1 trillion, arriving in at least 11 million containers. They require deep-water access, sufficient land for staging and storage, and unrestricted access to highway, rail, inland waterway, and pipeline networks.

At this point in time, the Department of Defense (DoD) maintains only an informal business relationship with U.S. ports. However, the DoD plays a considerable role in the security plan to prevent attacks on the ports, prepare to respond to possible attacks, and to restore their services post attack.

“But the ports themselves have to help government determine what the priorities are,” says Lawless. “That’s why AAPA members must constantly network among ourselves and our overseas counterparts to share information.”


About the Author

Patrick Burnson
Executive Editor

Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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