On the waterfront 2004

Before September 11, 2001, the maritime transportation industry, like the trucking industry, concentrated primarily on velocity, productivity and reliability on driving costs down and service up. It did not seem like a luxury, in those safer and vanished times, to focus on the business of moving cargo efficiently. Today, however, security is the new top priority for marine ports and all systems are

Before September 11, 2001, the maritime transportation industry, like the trucking industry, concentrated primarily on velocity, productivity and reliability — on driving costs down and service up. It did not seem like a luxury, in those safer and vanished times, to focus on the business of moving cargo efficiently.

Today, however, security is the new top priority for marine ports and all systems are being scrutinized with an eye to minimizing risk throughout the complex shipping process, from point of origin to final destination. It is not an easy task, and it will certainly impact the thousands of trucks serving U.S. port facilities.

“To transport a container, a typical cargo transaction will have as many as 25 different parties involved — buyers, sellers, banks, insurance companies, inland carriers (road and rail) on both sides of the water, at least two seaports (often more), ocean carriers, governments, consolidators and others. They will generate anywhere from 30-40 different documents, many still required in hard copy,” says Rear Admiral Richard M. Larrabee, U.S. Coast Guard Ret. and director of the Port Commerce Dept., the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, testifying on the issue of port security before the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast and Marine Transportation in May of 2002.

“This is a complex process,” he continues. “The physical movement of a container is only one dimension of the system. There are other components that must be understood. There is the flow of money, the flow of information and data on the shipment and, finally, the transfer of accountability that all must occur in order for cargo to be delivered.”


Addressing this gigantic and complex security puzzle would be an overwhelming undertaking, even if time and money were not issues. At every stop along the way, however, from shipper to end user, all the customary concerns for controlling cost and improving efficiency still exist. It is no wonder that enhancing supply chain management practices with the help of technology is widely seen as the best hope for securing world trade without sacrificing hard-won gains in productivity.

“International commerce has to go on. The security solutions we will recommend in our Operation Safe Commerce (OSC) report will also have to be economically viable in order to be successful,” observes Mark Gearin, senior security consultant for Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations, currently under contract to the Port of Tacoma and Port of Seattle to manage the OSC test programs under way there now (See “Operation Safe Commerce” sidebar.)

“In order to minimize the potential risks from terrorists and yet not over-burden trade, we are studying the entire shipping process, the way we do things at the marine ports and elsewhere along the complete supply chain,” he explains. “We are asking questions like: Where are the most vulnerable points? How much cargo visibility do we need, 100%, or something less? Where do we need added security?

“We used to worry about cargo theft,” Gearin recalls. “Now we worry more about what has been added to the containers. ‘What is really in the box?’ has become the big question. Data security is another key issue. We are asking questions about where supply chain data goes and about who has access to that information. Changing our processes is the real solution to better security, and technology is a tool we will use to support those process changes.”

As Gearin explains so well, it will not be individual technologies, but rather the masterful integration of the world's best supply chain management practices, logistics systems, data capture and communications tools and other security-enhancing technologies that will finally be deployed to meet the security requirements for cargo entering the U.S. through its marine ports.

Companies around the world, often in partnerships, are working to forge the integrated systems that will provide container security from foreign points of origin, to U.S. port facilities and on to the trucks and railroads that carry containerized cargo to its final destinations.

“There are really three main elements we have to address to provide security along the supply chain,” says Mike Dempsey, industry strategy leader at RedPrairie Corp. (www.RedPrairie.com), a provider of end-to-end global logistics solutions. “We have to secure physical assets such as shipping containers, we have to secure information, and we have to secure personnel. Along with our new strategic partner, RF Code (www.rfcode.com), we are currently working on a full security system for marine ports that will enable ports to do just that by utilizing a powerful combination of RFID (radio frequency identification) technology, data collection tools, and real-time supply chain management systems.

“In a typical marine environment, regular carriers will be required to have some sort of RFID tag which can be read as they enter the port area. ID-tag data about the vehicle, cargo and driver will be matched to port records before they are cleared for access,” he explains. “ID tags can also be placed on containers, terminal equipment like cranes, or on other assets. We believe that, if the processes are designed correctly, greater security can be compatible with greater productivity.”


General Electric Co. (GE) (www.ge.com) and SAIC, Science Applications International Corp., (www.saic.com) also recently announced the signing of an agreement aimed at developing and testing an integrated system to protect shipping containers.

One element of the system, the GE VeriWise platform, is already in use as an asset-tracking and security device for over-the-road trailers, according to GE. The two companies intend to integrate their individual monitoring and tracking technologies to create a complete system designed to not only track containers, but reliably deter, detect and report any intrusion attempts through any of the six sides of a container.

On April 20, 2004, GE and SAIC announced that two prototypes of a new “smart” sea container were on a test voyage from Australia to California. The containers are designed to tell shippers their precise location and whether they have been tampered with. Low-altitude satellites are tracking them and transmitting real-time location information, viewable through a GE web-based interface.

Pre-planned intrusion attempts to test the electronic alert system are also “working as designed,” according to William Kelly, SAIC sr.- vp and manager of the Security and Transportation Technology Business unit.

“Governments, shippers and ports all want sea cargo to be more secure,” says Andrew Greta, general manager, Asset Intelligence, GE Equipment Services. “Shippers and carriers also want to reduce cycle time, and the best way to do that is to provide indisputable documentation for their cargo, from point of origin to final destination. Our joint system is designed to provide that information.”

At marine terminals around the U.S., other projects are already under way to identify and test various anti-terrorism security systems. TransCore (www.transcore.com), for example, has been involved in a number of marine port security projects, according to the company, including OSC projects in Washington State and projects for P&O Ports North America operations at the Port of New Orleans' Napoleon Ave. Container Terminal.

The company's Amtech product line of short-range communications tools based on RF technology is already widely used by the railroad and trucking industries and is at the heart of TransCore's maritime security initiatives.

“Today, the railroads consider RFID tags as mission critical,” notes Tim Bickmore, sr. vp-business development for the company, “and their experience with RFID tags is being considered as a model for possible marine use, as well.

“Initially, ports looked at RFID tags simply as a means of tracking containers for efficiency reasons,” he adds. “Now there is a new need for general port security, including functions like gate management, personnel authorization and verifying that containers have not been tampered with. We believe RFID technology can play a very important role.”

The P&O operation is a case in point, according to Bob Frank, director of commercial vehicle and intermodal transportation for TransCore. “Today, P&O uses Amtech RFID tags, an OCR system for reading tag content and their own software system to schedule and manage trucks in and out of the container terminal,” he explains. “Before they implemented the new system, trucks lined up in the mornings waiting to enter the facility, then they all left and returned to line up again later in the day and repeat the process. Once drivers were inside the very large port facility, there was also confusion about exactly where to go.”


“Now drivers log onto a website to schedule their port entry and all trucks have to be tagged in order to pass through the gate,” Frank continues. “They can get an ID tag from the port or use certain toll road by-pass tags if they already have them. When an authorized driver arrives at the gate on time, the system guides him or her via cellphone or radio to their exact destination at the port. Tag readers all the way along the port roadway will also tell a truck operator if he or she is going the wrong way. Trucks are also logged out as they leave.

“The result is a huge improvement in through-put, as well as security,” Frank says. “In the past, most drivers could only handle about three loads per day in or out of the port. Now they can move five, six or even seven loads …. New Orleans is an example for other ports to look at when it comes to operating efficiency and security.”

In December of 2003, the Port of Long Beach in California (an OSC test site with the Port of Los Angeles) also announced the introduction of a wireless truck identification system at their facility. According to their announcement, the new program will require electronic identification systems for all 30,000 trucks picking up and dropping off containerized cargo in Long Beach and at other ports along the West Coast.

According to Glenn Eddy, sr. vp of APM Terminal Pacific at the Port of Los Angeles, “Wireless identification technology will increase security within terminals by quickly matching the information provided by truckers with information maintained in databases. Better and faster information collection and sharing is a key component to improving port security.”

The system is also expected to deliver a number of benefits beyond enhancing port security, including improving truck traffic problems around ports, reducing emissions from trucks idling while they wait at port facilities, and boosting container transportation efficiency.

“The use of radio frequency and other identification technologies will generate notable benefits for the public, local authorities, truckers and terminal operators,” notes Jon Hemingway, president and CEO, SSA Marine. “This allows us a chance to play a constructive role in finding solutions to truck congestion and a wide variety of pending issues, such as night gate hours.”


Canada, like the U.S., has been investigating and testing a variety of systems for many months designed to make sure that dangerous substances, weapons or other contraband are not smuggled through ports or border crossings.

One such device is the mobile Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System (VACIS) from SAIC. According to Canada's Customs and Revenue Agency, the VACIS is a truck-mounted gamma ray mobile scanning system that captures an image of the contents in a marine container, rail car or truck.

VACIS uses a Cobalt 60 energy source that emits a dose of radiation to give the machine operator an image similar to an X-ray. The VACIS are in wide use across Canada today, as well as in the U.S., and are already a familiar procedure to many truckers.


Ports all around the world are preparing to comply with the new International Ship and Port Facility Code mandated for implementation by July 1, 2004, by the International Maritime Organization. The Code is designed to help ports and ocean carriers worldwide maintain varying levels of security preparedness commensurate with their perceived level of threat from terrorism, according to an announcement from the North American Port representative.

The new IMO directives require that a security assessment be undertaken to identify all possible risks to ships and port facilities. Based upon this report, security plans are to be created and implemented to safeguard vessels, ports and terminals.

It is hard to believe that so much work has been done to help safeguard international trade in the 30-plus months since September 11, 2001. It is also noteworthy (and sadly ironic) that, in the course of addressing security needs, U.S. businesses may also finally realize their long-term supply chain integration goals and all their attendant efficiency benefits.

For now, however, there is more work to be done.

Operation Safe Commerce

Two Washington State marine ports, the Port of Tacoma and the Port of Seattle, are partnering in nine Operation Safe Commerce (OSC) projects funded with $27.5 million from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Launched in October of 2003, the programs are designed to test a variety of security-enhancement solutions in order to identify the best combination of processes, procedures and technologies to increase commerce security in a cost-efficient and workable manner.

“The OSC projects work sort of like a government grant in reverse,” explains Mark Gearin, senior security consultant for Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations, currently under contract to the Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma to manage the Operation Safe Commerce (OSC) projects. “In the case of a grant, the government describes the work to be done and companies compete for the contract to do it. In the case of OSC, the people and organizations involved are undertaking test projects in order to advise the government on the best courses of action, and they are all making out-of-pocket contributions themselves, too.

“In other words, private industry is saying, ‘we know the cargo transportation business from the inside out. If anyone can discover how to address these new container security needs, we can,’” Gearin continues. “That means learning what doesn't work is just as important as learning what does.”

According to Gearin, several companies, including Maersk Logistics, Innolog and System Planning Corp. (SPC), along with their project partners, are heading up the nine OSC tests currently under way in the Northwest. Each test focuses on different aspects of the shipping process and on different technologies.

The SPC test, for example, involves providing “seamless security” for selected cargo containers traveling to the Port of Tacoma from Nagoya, Japan, and on to Chicago utilizing a variety of technologies and logistics tools.

According to SPC, these include: through-the-wall radar to detect humans or contraband in apparently empty containers, biometric voice recognition to achieve authentication of field agents who must open containers en route, satellite tracking of containers using low-earth orbiting satellites to allow global tracking and security monitoring of containers though a password-protected web page, and information fusion and decision support algorithms to enhance the potential of detecting terrorist tampering at an early stage.

“We expect to have our final OSC report to the TSA this November,” says Gearin. “It will include specific recommendations from the project teams. Some of the things we are discovering will be of help in other areas, too, such as human smuggling and drug trafficking. Greater supply chain efficiency is one of the results we are already seeing.

“I think that many of the answers we are seeking are here,” he adds. “I'm personally excited about what we're doing because it's work that will really make a difference. I want to do all I can to make sure my kids and grandkids have all the same opportunities growing up that I had.”

The new language of security

If acronyms and abbreviations were effective against terrorism, citizens could go to bed at night secure in the knowledge that they were snug behind an impenetrable barrier of jargon. The complexity and technicality of today's security initiatives and the terrible disasters they are designed to prevent have combined to create a tangle of new terminology. Here is a brief guide:

ADS (Automatic Dependent Surveillance). A term used in air and vessel traffic control for on-board equipment that automatically determines location and other relevant information without intervention from crew or network managers.

Biometrics Tools. Technologies used to enable positive identification of personnel, for example people authorized to enter secured areas, perform certain tasks or operate certain machinery. These tools are based on a number of unique personal identifiers, including fingerprints, hand geometry, eye retinal and iris identification, facial recognition, voice recognition and dynamic signature recognition.

Cargo Seals. Divided into manual seals (indicative and barrier) and electronic seals (passive and active). Indicative manual seals are designed to show whether or not a sealed opening has been compromised. Barrier seals add an element of physical protection by making an entrance or opening harder to penetrate. Electronic seals are designed to provide more information via RFID technology. Active seals, for instance, may detect and report tampering as it occurs.

CBP. U. S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection

CSI (Container Security Initiative). A CBP project to target and inspect containers in foreign ports before they leave for the U.S.

C-TPAT (Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism). A joint government and business initiative to build cooperative relationships designed to strengthen the overall supply chain and border security. Through the initiative, Customs is asking businesses to ensure the integrity of their security practices and communicate their security guidelines to their business partners within the supply chain.

DHS. Department of Homeland Security

FIRST (Freight Information Real-Time System for Transport). A cargo information system developed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey considered as a possible model for a national system for the collection and dissemination of real-time cargo information and status, including information from trucking companies serving the port. The future of the system remains in question, however, following a trial period rated as “unsuccessful” by the FHWA earlier this spring due to low usage of the system.

International Ship and Port Facility Code. Mandated for implementation by July 1, 2004, by the International Maritime Organization. The Code is designed to help ports and ocean carriers worldwide maintain varying levels of security preparedness commensurate with their perceived level of threat from terrorism.

MTO. Marine Terminal Operator

MTSA (Marine Transportation Security Act of 2002). Federal regulations designed to enhance security in those sectors of the maritime industry that have the highest risk of involvement in a transportation security incident, including but not limited to cargo vessels and port facilities that handle certain kinds of dangerous cargo. Trucks servicing these ports may also be impacted by the measures enacted for compliance with MTSA.

NII (Non-Intrusive Inspection Devices). Designed to scan trailers, containers and railcars with x-rays and gamma rays to detect voids, cargo anomalies or hidden compartments. Also used to describe devices designed to detect drugs, explosives and radiological material, such as those used at airports.

OSC (Operation Safe Commerce). A federally funded research project being conducted now by the maritime industry and others to gather information about international cargo shipping and distribution and currently available security technologies. Results will help to guide the creation of federal standards for seamless, secure international trade.

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). Information tags and readers that use radio frequency technology to wirelessly transmit data.

RTLS (Real-Time Locating System). Satellite, cellular, radio or other technologies utilized to find and/or track assets or people.

Smart Cards. Small, portable memory and processing devices that can carry and transmit personal biometric information and/or other data, such as cargo manifests and vehicle information.

TSA. Transportation Security Administration

TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Credential). A proposed state-level security ID card for people working at marine ports. The State of Florida and the TSA are currently working on a joint development project with the goal of issuing cards for Florida port workers by mid-summer 2004.

[Editor's note: Definitions here are drawn from a number of sources, including the U. S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (www.customs.us treas.gov) and from a report prepared for the FHWA Office of Freight Management and Operations, Intermodal Freight Security and Technology Workshop, April 2002 by Michael Wolfe, North River Consulting Group (www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov).]

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