Trading Partners Work Together to Secure Maritime Cargo

Q: How are ocean carriers and shippers addressing security standards?

A: When U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) introduced the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) initiative after the Sept. 11 attacks, it gave government, shippers, carriers, port authorities, and other transportation and logistics intermediaries a platform to build better security protocol into the supply chain. As a consequence, supply chain partners are taking cues from CBP and making concerted efforts to share and apply security best practices throughout their organizations and supply chain operations. In fact, some are making voluntary C-TPAT certification a compliance requirement among partners.

Q: These methods and standards apply mostly to U.S. ports. What’s being done overseas to address the same issues?

A: Before C-TPAT, there was the Container Security Initiative (CSI). CSI is designed to push the security border beyond America’s shores to foreign ports. It consists of four key elements: using advanced intelligence to identify and target containers that may pose a threat; pre-screening suspicious containers while they are still overseas; using technology to quickly pre-screen suspicious containers; and employing smart containers.

Q: What are some methods to manage the process?

A: C-TPAT requires companies to conduct periodic spot-checks to ensure all procedures are being performed. One way shippers can address this is by employing detailed, standardized checklists. Steamship lines use this approach when sweeping a vessel for potential security breaches, examining internal/external compartments, and reviewing shipboard training programs. Shippers can engage a similar step-by-step process within their facilities to ensure a shipment’s chain of custody remains intact.

Q: How can shippers and their supply chain partners enhance security and also save time?

A: Ensuring containers remained sealed is important —and required by C-TPAT. Containers with seal security issues should not be allowed to move on until the discrepancy is resolved. Stopping the container as close as possible to the point of discovery makes it easier to identify the nature of the problem. Proper action may involve applying a high-security seal, requiring a shipper to verify the contents and add a seal, or refusing to lade a container on its next means of conveyance.

Q: What would you suggest as an overall unifying philosophy for the industry?

A: Stay alert. Monitoring the work environment, especially on the waterfront, is critical to any maritime security program. Some steamship lines routinely and randomly inspect containers in transit to keep shippers, suppliers, and other intermediaries on their toes. If breaches arise, they can use this information to identify the problem’s root and develop solutions to prevent future compromises.

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