Tuesday, December 1, 2009

US Air Freight Report Highlights What Forwarders Already Know About Security Risks

A Chain is Only as Strong as its Weakest Link
Shipping News Feature

US – According to a report issued by the Department of Homeland Security there are still holes in the security arrangements surrounding air cargo movements which one could drive a sizeable freight train through. The study was made to investigate just how thoroughly the industry protects itself when securing cargo against possible interference by malicious agencies and how it ensures staff have been rigorously and adequately vetted.

As many freight forwarders are aware the systems in place are dependent on the conscientiousness of individuals and individual companies, and in some cases such duty of care is sadly, and potentially fatally, lacking.

In brief the report cites cases where staff were not sufficiently investigated, trained or both. 23% of truck and fork lift driver records examined showed a lack of correct training or testing. Automated tools to assist inspectors in analyzing results and focusing their oversight efforts on high-risk areas in air cargo security were not adequate. The result was to leave air cargo craft open to the introduction of explosive or other destructive devices by way of sabotaged cargo items.

In the course of the investigation the undercover agents were able to gain access to supposedly secure areas and identify many staff who simply should not have been able to gain access without further security checks. It lambasts the Transport Security Administration (TSA), the body with jurisdiction over the freight forwarding and air carriage operations, and says their inspection process has focused on quantity rather than outcomes and has not ensured compliance with the regulations.

The details of the report highlight 2640 infringements of the regulations and cite cases such as security doors with unserviceable locks, alarms not answered by staff, access being granted by staff opening sealed areas without checking any credentials as to who was entering etc.

The report goes on to make six key recommendations as to the way to immediately improve the situation including better training in depth, use of security devices etc.

Those who thought they were having enough problems with cargo entering and leaving the United States since 9/11 may find things even more protracted In the future.