Archives For 9/11

CT X-ray Imaging

Battelle has produced a White Paper on ‘The Importance of Image Quality and Image Quality Verification with Imaging Based Screening Technology’. It highlights how the quality of the images produced by a CT used for security screening is critical to the ability of the CT to automatically detect explosives.

X-ray systems have been used for civil aviation security screening for decades to provide a means to quickly and efficiently examine the contents of an item (e.g. cabin baggage or hold baggage) non-intrusively. Originally, such systems relied only on screeners to scrutinise the X-ray image on a display to identify potential explosive threats. Beginning in the mid to late 1990s X-ray screening technology advanced to the point that X-ray systems could automatically detect potential explosive threats and highlight them and associated IED components for secondary on-screen review by a security officer, thus enhancing the probability of detection, reducing the false alarm rate and increasing bag throughput. Computed tomography (CT) explosives detection systems (EDS), based on technology used for medical imaging, were the first to provide this capability.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was the first to implement this technology in the late 1990s. The 9-11 tragedy in 2001 led to the creation of the TSA and accelerated the adoption of this technology in the U.S. The worldwide civil aviation community has been slower to adopt CT EDS, relying instead on other X-ray technology, but is now committed to its use for screening, with deadlines for 100% implementation in different regions of the world ranging from now to 2020 and beyond.

TSA’s model as a government aviation security regulator is different from its counterparts in most other countries in that TSA not only specifies requirements and certifies equipment but it also acquires and deploys this equipment at all 440 U.S. commercial airports. In support of this full life cycle model, TSA has developed robust test and evaluation methodologies to ensure the equipment it acquires is working properly before it is accepted for use. TSA’s deep understanding of CT and its experience with testing security screening equipment in general provide an invaluable reference for the rest of the worldwide aviation community relative to the successful acquisition of CT-based screening equipment.

The automatic detection capability afforded by CT is a result of two key elements of the system: 1) the three-dimensional image rendered by the CT; and, 2) the automatic threat detection (ATD) algorithm which analyses each three-dimensional image to look for suspicious items which it then will “alarm on” and highlight for subsequent review by a screening official. The system’s ability to perform this automatic detection function properly is therefore dependent on both image quality and the ATD. The ATD is based on software and is certified by government agencies (TSA in the U.S. and ECAC in the EU) to detect specific explosive threats in quantities of concern. Since the ATD is embodied in software, it does not degrade once it is developed and compiled. The same cannot be said for the image generation capability of CT which is reliant on the system’s hardware and proper system setup.

With a CT EDS, image quality is a function of many hardware and software parameters that support and make-up the imaging subsystem. Key components include the scanner conveyor(s), X-ray tube, X-ray detectors, X-ray gantry, power supplies, and cooling systems. If any of these elements is not working properly it can affect the image quality and thus the ability of the system to detect explosives.

Image degradation caused by certain elements of the system not functioning properly can be so subtle that the naked eye cannot perceive it on a screener’s display yet such image quality degradation can significantly diminish the ATD’s ability to detect threats. Each vendor has their own image quality kit for internal testing purposes, however, these kits do not conform to a commonly agreed standard and may not be adequately sensitive to all relevant system elements that affect image quality. How then does an operator know that their CT is producing images of acceptable quality? The answer is a standardised approach to image quality verification that verifies all key system elements impacting image quality and that has the sensitivity to detect issues that could impact detection performance.

TSA has always developed its own test articles for acceptance testing to ensure products meet their standard of acceptance and to assure consistency across all platforms. Up until very recently the TSA test articles for CT were based on a statistical method that was reliable but that only provided a go/no-go result. This system involved many test articles that were logistically difficult to manage and that required regular maintenance. To address these shortcomings and to improve the detail and value of the testing process TSA, several years ago, embarked on a programme to develop image quality test phantoms that would directly test the key elements of a CT as described above and provide empirical data that directly (not statistically) assesses CT image quality.

This empirical testing system was developed cooperatively by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Transportation Security Laboratory, TSA, the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), screening equipment OEMs and Battelle. It consists of two test phantoms, and mathematical formulae for analysing the CT images produced by the test phantoms when scanned. The system produces 78 image quality metrics that represent the performance of the key CT subsystems and components mentioned above. These 78 parameters are analysed through the accompanying software to determine the quality of the CT image. The test results can help diagnose specific CT subsystems or components contributing to poor image quality and the test data, if captured on a periodic basis, can be used for trend analysis to anticipate imminent failures and to optimise maintenance. This new standard has been published in the US as ANSI N42.45 2011. It will be published internationally in 2017 as IEC 62945.

In summary, the quality of the images produced by a CT used for security screening is critical to the ability of the CT to automatically detect explosives. CT image quality should be verified as part of the acquisition process for new CT and it should be periodically verified to ensure that the CT continues to produce images of acceptable quality. A new standard has been developed for worldwide use that can be used to perform this image quality verification (ANSI N42.45 (U.S.) and IEC 62945 (international). These standards define test phantoms and associated analytical formulas for determining CT image quality. Battelle now offers the phantoms and associated analytical software commercially under the trademarked name, Verif-IQ™ X-ray Image Quality Verification System. Source: airport-business.com (leading airport magazine)

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CBP Commemoration 9-11

We will never forget the ones we lost 14 years ago and we honor the bravery of those who worked to save others. @CustomsBorder

CBP personnel in Sault Ste Marie take a moment to recognize the fallen on 9/11 at the International Bridge. (Picture: US Customs & Border Protection)

CBP personnel in Sault Ste Marie take a moment to recognize the fallen on 9/11 at the International Bridge. (Picture: US Customs & Border Protection)

 

Also see –

9/11 – The Significance for Customs

9/11 Vivid Memories

 

Port of Oakland - VertiTainer's  crane mounted scanner solution employs advanced passive scanning technology and sophisticated identification algorithms to detect and identify gamma and neutron sources in shipping containers as they are loaded or discharged from a container ship.

Port of Oakland – VertiTainer’s crane mounted scanner solution employs advanced passive scanning technology and sophisticated identification algorithms to detect and identify gamma and neutron sources in shipping containers as they are loaded or discharged from a container ship.

While the question of mandatory weighing of containers features high on the International Maritime Organisations’ (IMO) list of priorities, a recent post “Container Weighing – industry solution on the horizon“, reminded me of a solution which has been around for some time now, but for various reasons would appear to have been overlooked by authorities – or so it would appear. Readers and followers of this blog may well already have viewed the feature on VeriTainer’s gantry crane mounted radiation detection and identification system, called the VeriSpreader® – refer to the New generation NII technology page of this Blog.

The spreader is a device used for lifting containers and unitized cargo. The spreader used for containers has a locking mechanism at each corner that attaches the four corners of the container. A spreader can be used on a container crane, a straddle carrier and with any other machinery to lift containers. (Wikipedia)

The recent maritime disaster involving the breaking-in-half, and eventual sinking of the MOL Comfort gave rise to the question of overloaded container boxes. While government and international security-minded organisations have pursued methods to address breaches in the supply chain, it would seem that little ‘innovation’ has been applied to the problem – specifically in regard to minimizing the time and cost of routing containers via purpose-built inspection facilities.

At least three known radiation incidents have hit the headlines in recent times – namely Port of Genoa (2010), Port Elizabeth, New Jersey (Feb, 2013), and the most recent in the Port of Voltri (July, 2013). Each of these incidents warranted an emergency response from authorities with a consequential impact on Port Operations.  Unfortunately, advanced risk management systems and other security safeguards did not alert suspicion, allowing these ‘threats’ into the heart of the port, not to mention the radiation threat to port workers?

It could be argued that since the inception of government-led supply chain security, 2002 onwards, many of the world’s supply chains have built in ‘possible inspection’ into their export lead times. A trip to a purpose-built inspection facility will normally require diverting transport from its predestined journey to a land border crossing or seaport. Moreover, lack of predictability often causes delays with possible loss of business where ‘security’ measures delay the movement of cargo.

Several Customs and Border authorities have instituted ‘export-led’ compliance programmes which seek to create better regulatory awareness and expectation for shippers. While not without merit, these still impose an inherent cost to trade where in some instances, shipper’s are compelled to institute ISO-type security standards which for some require dedicated and skilled experts to entrench and maintain these throughout the organisation. So, while the development of increasing levels of compliance amongst supply chain operators will occur over time, what of government ‘Non-Intrusive’ inspection capability?

Port Technology International‘s Feb 2013 article – Future X-Ray Inspection Equipment to be based on Industry Standards – opined that “future developments in cargo screening are likely to follow a common innovation trajectory that is fostered by market needs and new technology, while being strengthened by existing intellectual property and evolving industry standards. Innovation is often perceived as a circular path beginning with customer needs that are identified by a technology developer. The developer then creates application technology in the form of products to meet those needs”.

Land and rail-based cargo screening technology has improved immensely over the last 10 years with improved safety (shielding), throughput (speed) and portability. Engineers have likewise realized the need to ‘fuse’ imaging and radiation threat detection technologies, all offering a more cost-effective package to the end-user. These are by and large the Customs and Border authorities worldwide who protect our territorial waters and ports. Yet, the approach remains ‘modality driven’ which has ensured a period of predictability for designers and manufacturers, not to mention their revenue streams. Given the container weighing – port radiation threats discussed earlier, perhaps it is time now for transport and enforcement authorities to consider technologies as developed by VeriTainer and Lasstec and define a specification for “100%” needs – could this be uniform? Not unlike Lasstec’s container-weighing solution that allows the weighing of containers during the loading cycle so not to disrupt the work flow, Veritainer’s VeriRAD solution uses a gantry crane ‘spreader’ to house its unique solution with specific emphasis to mitigate the threat of a ‘dirty bomb’.

 

isfU.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has announced that on July 9, 2013, it will begin full enforcement of Importer Security Filing (ISF or 10+2), and will start issuing liquidated damages against ISF importers and carriers for ISF non-compliance.

According to the CBP release, “in order to achieve the most compliance with the least disruption to the trade and to domestic port operations, it has been applying a “measured and commonsense approach” to Importer Security Filing (ISF or 10+2) enforcement.

The Importer Security Filing (ISF) system—also referred to as the “10+2” data elements—requires both importers and carriers to transmit certain information to CBP regarding inbound ocean cargo 24 hours prior to lading that cargo at foreign ports. These rules are intended to satisfy certain requirements under the Security Accountability for Every (SAFE) Port Act of 2006 and the Trade Act of 2002, as amended by the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002.

Under the ISF, the following 10 data elements are required from the importer:

  1. Manufacturer (or supplier) name and address
  2. Seller (or owner) name and address
  3. Buyer (or owner) name and address
  4. Ship-to name and address
  5. Container stuffing location
  6. Consolidator (stuffer) name and address
  7. Importer of record number/foreign trade zone applicant identification number
  8. Consignee number(s)
  9. Country of origin
  10. Commodity Harmonized Tariff Schedule number

From the carrier, 2 data elements are required:

  1. Vessel stow plan
  2. Container status messages

Source: CBP.gov

Decision Sciences maintains that 100% container scanning is possible without bringingcommerce to a crawl (Credit: Maritime Professional)

Decision Sciences maintains that 100% container scanning is possible without bringing
commerce to a crawl (Credit: Maritime Professional)

The following article published by Maritime Professional describes a new technology, already in use by a major terminal operator, which appears to put the requirement for 100% scanning of all inbound containers back on track. The article has been doing the rounds on a social media platform with some sceptism still being shared on its viability as a ‘100%’ scanning solution. All the same its always interesting to learn of new innovations. I guess the US Treasury has spent billions sponsoring these types of tech-development so as to vindicate its original threat to the rest of the world! (For the PDF version please click here!)

In July 2007, U.S. legislators passed a law requiring 100% scanning of U.S. bound containers at their last foreign ports by the year 2012. That federal requirement nearly died a quick death recently but has received a reprieve of sorts. Originally scheduled to take effect July 1, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in May of 2012 notified Congress that she would use her authority under the 2007 law to delay implementation by two years. Napolitano said systems available to scan containers would result in a negative impact on trade capacity and the flow of cargo, and that some foreign ports do not have the physical characteristics needed to install such systems. If the last part was true then, however, it may not necessarily be the case now.

As reported in our 1Q 2012 edition of MarPro, pilot efforts were established at several foreign ports under the Secure Freight Initiative (SFI) targeting in-bound containers for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) prior to loading. Objections by trading partners surfaced and were confirmed by the Government Accounting Office (GAO).

In her testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said in part, “DHS has learned a great deal from these pilots, but it has also encountered a number of steep challenges. Some of these issues relate to the limits on current technology. Technology doesn’t exist right now to effectively and automatically detect suspicious anomalies and cargo. This makes scanning difficult and time-consuming. …Therefore, DHS is compelled to seek the time extensions authorized by law with respect to the scanning provision.” At the time DHS’s Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) had already spent nearly $10 million on efforts to develop a container security device; to no avail.

New Technology: New Hope for Compliance
As the U.S. government continues to try to find a solution to its own scanning requirements, it also continues to fund testing when a promising solution comes to light. In September of last year, Decision Sciences International Corporation (DSIC), a provider of security and detection systems, announced that it was awarded a $2.7 million contract by the DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) for an Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) of its Multi-Mode Passive Detection System (MMPDS). Under the contract, DSIC supports government testing of MMPDS intended to evaluate the system’s effectiveness and readiness for transition to production. Before that, Decision Sciences was awarded another contract – this one worth $400,000 – by the U.S. Department of Defense to test muon tomography based scanning systems capable of detecting explosives. 

The Multi-Mode Passive Detection System – how it works
Based in Chantilly, VA, with a development/production facility in Poway, CA, DSIC and its 27 employees and contractors hope to bring together hardware and software development, systems integration and cutting edge science to improve the safety and security of global commerce. Based on patented technology invented by scientists at the Alamos National Laboratory, the Multi-Mode Passive Detection System (MMPDS) was developed with private sector investment and expertise. MMPDS is billed as a safe, effective and reliable automated scanning device for detecting unshielded to heavily shielded nuclear and radiological threats. In reality, and as MarPro found out during a focused site visit in Freeport, Bahamas, the system does so much more.

DSIC’s passive scanning technology uses naturally occurring cosmic ray muons to detect potential threats in cargo, vehicles and other conveyances. DSIC President and CEO Dr. Stanton D. Sloane explains, “Equipment can generally be classified into two main categories; active and passive. Active systems include x-ray and/or radiation technologies. In other words, they add some sort of radiation or energy to the environment. Our system is 100 percent passive; we don’t generate any additional energy. We simply use the existing cosmic ray ‘muons’ to do the scanning. When cosmic rays hit the upper atmosphere, they create showers of atomic particles. One of the particles is a muon. High in mass, muons travel at near the velocity of light. Because of this, muons penetrate materials … even very dense materials … readily.

Normal cosmic radiation is 5000 muons per minute and penetrates through lead, steel, concrete and just about anything else. Sloane adds, “That’s really the breakthrough technology. We have upper and lower detectors. As the muons go through the upper detector we calculate their trajectory. As they go through the bottom detector, we calculate their trajectory and we look for a change in that track. The angular change of the track is a function of the density of the material that the muons go through. The denser the material that the muons penetrate, the larger the angular change.”

Beyond the efficacy of the system is its vivid imagery of the inside of the container it is scanning. With x-ray machines, if something is found, the container must be taken to the side, analysis performed and delays to the container magnified. Not so with Decision Sciences technology: false positives are eliminated because the density of typical items – and the dangerous ones too – can be catalogued.

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While American’s are accustomed to a period of mourning and remembrance over this time, it seems as though property mogul – Larry Silverstein – is more concerned with lost profits than the fate of a few thousand lost souls resulting from the 9/11 tragedy. Perhaps the US Airforce should be cited for not scrambling fighter jets quick enough to intercept the rogue planes. Moreover, why not cite the ‘negligent’ customs and immigration officials of the DHS for failing to intercept the rogue hijackers. A strange case of selective blame, indeed!

Most of the lawsuits arising from the hijacked plane attacks on the World Trade Center 11 years ago have been settled, but one demanding that United Airlines and American Airlines be held liable for loss of property and business could go to trial.

Two recent rulings by a federal judge in New York denying the airlines’ bid to dismiss the lawsuit over a narrow insurance dispute have opened the door to the entire case ending up in the hands of a jury. At issue is whether the two airlines and other defendants should pay additional damages to Larry Silverstein, the leaseholder of the World Trade Center property, beyond what he has already received from his own insurer.

Silverstein’s World Trade Center Properties blamed United, now United Continental Holdings Inc, and American Airlines, for breaches of security. The 2008 lawsuit also named aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co, the Massachusetts Port Authority, which manages Logan International Airport, and security companies.

The lawsuit claimed that negligence allowed hijackers to board two planes at the Boston airport and use them as missiles to destroy the 110-story twin towers and cause other buildings on the site in lower Manhattan to burn down. Before Sept. 11, the airlines and the security companies they hired oversaw security at airports and on planes. That responsibility now lies with the Transportation Security Administration, a government agency.

Silverstein is seeking $8.4 billion in damages for loss of property and lost business, even though U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein has limited the amount to the $2.8 billion Silverstein paid for the leases. The lawsuit is among the last pieces of litigation resulting from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which killed more than 3,000 people in New York, the Pentagon outside Washington, and Pennsylvania. Read the full article here! Source: Reuters.

Related articles

The US Bureau for Customs and Border Protection  has money to run commercial trade processing system (ACE) but not expand it. Customs and Border Protection has US $140 million to operate and maintain a commercial trade processing system, but there’s no money in the 2012 budget to further develop the program. The lack of development money, particularly for the simplified entry process, has caused concern amongst business community members. Simplified entry is something that Customs and the trade community are looking for to further automate import processing and lower transaction costs. Source: USCBP

According to a new research report from Berg Insight, the number of active remote container tracking units deployed on inter-modal shipping containers was 77,000 in Q4-2011. Growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 66.9 percent, this number is expected to reach 1.0 million by 2016. The penetration rate of remote tracking systems in the total population of containers is estimated to increase from 0.4 percent in 2011 to 3.6 percent in 2016. Berg Insight’s definition of a real-time container tracking solution is a system that incorporates data logging, satellite positioning and data communication to a back-office application.

The market for container tracking solutions is still in its early stage. Aftermarket solutions mounted on high value cargo and refrigerated containers will be the first use cases to adopt container tracking. Orbcomm has after recent acquisitions of Startrak and PAR LMS emerged as the largest vendor of wireless container tracking devices with solutions targeting refrigerated containers. Qualcomm, ID Systems and Telular are prominent vendors focusing on inland transportation in North America, which is so far the most mature market for container tracking solutions. PearTrack Systems, Honeywell Global Tracking, EPSa and Kirsen Global Security are examples of companies offering dedicated solutions targeting the global end-to-end container transport chain.

Ever since the events of 9/11, there have been a lot of activities to bring container tracking solutions to the market according to the report. Only now technology advancement, declining hardware prices and market awareness are starting to come together to make remote container tracking solutions attractive. Container telematics can help supply chain operators to comply with regulations and meet the high demands on security, information visibility and transportation efficiency that comes with global supply chains. Source: Berg Insight

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano unveiled  the Obama administration’s National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland yesterday (25 January). The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is committed to facilitating legitimate trade and travel, while preventing terrorists from exploiting supply chains, protecting transportation systems from attacks and disruptions, and increasing the resilience of global supply chains.

The National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security outlines clear goals to promote the efficient and secure movement of goods and foster a resilient supply chain system. It also provides guidance for the U.S. government and crucial domestic, international, public and private stakeholders who share a common interest in the security and resiliency of the global supply chain. (Why call it a “National” strategy when it impacts the international community?)

DHS works with leaders from global shipping companies and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on developing preventative measures, including terrorism awareness training for employees and vetting personnel with access to cargo. Fulfilling a requirement of the 9/11 Act, 100 percent of high risk cargo on international flights bound for the United States is screened.

In addition, through the Container Security Initiative currently operational in over 50 foreign seaports in Europe, North, Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East, and throughout Asia, U.S. Customs and Border Protection helps our partner countries identify and screen U.S.-bound maritime containers before they reach the U.S..

Following the release of the National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security, DHS and the Department of State will lead a six month engagement period with the international community and industry stakeholders to solicit feedback and specific recommendations on how to implement the Strategy in a cost-effective and collaborative manner. You can find the Strategy by clicking here! Also, for a summary of the strategy in presentation format, click here! We wait with bated breath to find out whats going to be new here, besides more onerous reporting requirements!

Source: US Press Secretary and The White House Blog.

The Korea Customs Service (KCS) will introduce an Advance Manifest System in accordance with WCO standards as well as fulfill its own responsibilities as a governmental agency of duties for collection and border protection. This follows other major trading partners such as the U.S., Canada, EU and China who have already already adopted the Advance Manifest reporting. Known as KAMS, the new system will be implemented by KCS from 1st December, 2011. For more information click the hyperlink to download Korea Customs Advance Manifest System guideline.

Following 10 years since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks , the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) has released a background report that explores the unique nature of the 9/11 attacks and examines terrorism trends pre- and post-2001. Key findings from the report include:

  • More people died in the 9/11 attacks than in all other US terrorist attacks from 1970 to 2010.
  • The 9/11 attacks involved the first terrorist hijackings in the United States since 1984.
  • There has not been a successful terrorist hijacking in the United States since 9/11.
  • Prior to 9/11, al-Qa’ida had successfully launched only three other terrorist attacks globally—having attacked the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the USS Cole in the Port of Aden in Yemen in 2000. Since 9/11, groups allied with al-Qa’ida are responsible for over 12,000 deaths worldwide. Globally, over 65,000 people have died in terrorist attacks since 2001, with an average of 7258 deaths in terrorist attacks per year.
  • From 1991-2000, the United States averaged 41.3 terrorist attacks per year. After 2001, the average number of US attacks decreased to 16 per year from 2002-2010.
  • From 2003-2007, there were no fatalities from terrorist activity in the United States. The full background report is available here!
Picture of Kunio Mikuriya at the World Customs...

WCO's Kunio Mikuriya

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11, WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya stated that “security, in particular global trade security, became a priority policy objective and is now part of Customs’ existing border protection portfolio to prevent such attacks from re-occurring”.

“Customs administrations across the globe have made considerable efforts to counter security threats,” stressed the Secretary General. “It is therefore fitting that as we commemorate the anniversary of 9/11, we renew our firm commitment to continue to take speedy action against terrorism and other forms of organized crime,” he concluded.

In response to 9/11, over the last 10 years the WCO has developed many international standards including the renowned SAFE Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade, and further supported national Customs administrations to implement the Framework through a vigorous and highly successful capacity building programme.

This Framework promotes supply chain security through the submission of advance cargo information, the application of risk management, the use of non-intrusive cargo scanning equipment, the development of Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) programmes, and partnerships between Customs administrations and between Customs and their trade stakeholders.

To further assist its Members and others who play a role in global trade security, the WCO has published a Research Paper – The Customs Supply Chain Security Paradigm and 9/11: Ten Years On and Beyond. Source WCO.

The tenth anniversary of 9/11 recalls a day of infamy for many, particularly those who lost loved ones, not to mention the sheer audacity and questionable motives of the respective attacks. It also marked a distinct period of change in the Customs, international travel and trade environments. For one, there is a not a single person involved in any of the above who has not felt the effects of a ‘shake up’. It is therefore relevant to recount this event and reflect on the explicit impact which the attacks in New York would have for Customs officers, worldwide.

WTC 6, an eight storey building –known as Custom House – was home to 760 officers of the US Customs Service. It was situated adjacent to the North Tower. Within 12 minutes of the first plane hitting the North Tower at about 8:46 am, all occupants (WTC 6) were safely evacuated. Stephen Barr of the Washington Post noted in an article titled, “Knowing the Drill Saved Lives at New York’s Customs House” on 18 September 2001 that ‘Federal agencies demonstrated coolheaded leadership during the crisis. Because of practice sessions held several times a year, employees knew what to do and where to go. In a day marked by unbelievable horror and confusion, old-fashioned fire drills helped one band of office workers to escape’.

Beneath the plaza level of US Customs House (WTC 6) was a large underground garage, separated off from the rest of the complex’s underground area and guarded under tight security. This was where the various government services parked their bomb-proofed cars and armoured limousines, counterfeit taxi cabs and telephone company trucks used for undercover surveillance and covert operations, specialized vans and other vehicles.

New York Customs House (WTC6) - AfterThe evacuation of WTC 6 was indeed timely, because at 9:04am a massive explosion shook the building, bellowing a huge plume of smoke 550 feet into the air. When the North Tower fell, the US Customs House (WTC 6) was crushed and totally incinerated. Much of the underground levels beneath it were also destroyed.

The Commissioner designate, Robert C. Bonner, commented “The sudden disruption to such a large and important area of Customs’ operations threatened to compromise the immediate security of ports of entry in the New York area and the integrity of ongoing Customs investigations and trade and enforcement activities. We faced an immediate need to relocate all 800 employees and to allow them to resume their work quickly so they could focus on border security. These men and women responded heroically to the challenge, setting up a temporary operations center within hours at nearby JFK airport. And, within three weeks of the attacks, they succeeded in relocating our New York Customs Office into new office space in Manhattan”. Click here to view the full testimony of Robert Bonner to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks.

Customs evidence amongst the rubbleIn the months to follow, significant developments resulted in the institution of the Department of Homeland Security – the merger of the US Customs and Immigration Services – a gargantuan displacement of some 140 000 federal officials. (For SARS Customs officials – ours is but a picnic!). The full implications of 9/11 were to be felt by the international community in 2002 with the implementation of several ‘security/anti-terrorism’ measures that have undoubtedly changed the focus, intent of all customs administrations worldwide. Click here to visit the 9/11 image gallery.