Archives For Terrorism

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Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have developed new glass scintillators to detect suspicious nuclear material at borders and ports. The new scintillators are cheap, effective and more stable than the current scintillators in use.

Scintillators, which produce bright light when struck by radiation, are used extensively by the US Government in homeland security as radiation detectors. By observing the amount of light produced, and how quickly, the source of radiation may be identified.

Dr Patrick Feng, who led the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation project, began to develop new types of scintillators in 2010, in order to “strengthen national security by improving the cost-to-performance ratio of radiation detectors”. To improve this ratio, he had to “bridge the gap” between effective scintillators made from expensive materials, and affordable but far less effective models.

Although there are many types of scintillator available, the best-performing scintillators are made from trans-stilbene. This crystallised form of a molecule allows border security tell the difference between gamma rays, which appear naturally everywhere, and neutrons, which are often associated with threatening materials such as plutonium and uranium, by producing a bright light in response.

The gold standard scintillator material for the past 40 years has been the crystalline form of a molecule called trans-stilbene, despite intense research to develop a replacement. Trans-stilbene is highly effective at differentiating between two types of radiation: gamma rays, which are ubiquitous in the environment, and neutrons, which emanate almost exclusively from controlled threat materials such as plutonium or uranium. Trans-stilbene is very sensitive to these materials, producing a bright light in response to their presence.

These crystals, however, are too fragile and expensive (around S1,000 per cubic inch)  to be used in the field, and instead, security personnel will tend to use plastic-based scintillators, which can be moulded into large shapes but are ineffective at differentiating between different types of radiation or detecting weak sources.

In order to find a good alternative, Dr Feng and his team at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, CA, began to experiment with organic glass components, which are capable of discriminating between different types of radiation.

Tests demonstrated that scintillators made with organic glass performed even better than the trans-stilbene scintillators in radiation detection tests.

The researchers were able to improve their design further when they drew a parallel between the behaviour of LEDs, which produce light when electrical energy is applied, and scintillators, which respond to radioactive sources. They found that adding fluorine, which is used in some LEDs, into the scintillator components helped stabilise them. This allowed for the organic glass to be melted down and cast into large blocks without becoming cloudy or crystallising upon cooling.

The result was an indefinitely stable scintillator able to differentiate between non-threatening radioactive sources, such as those used in medical treatments, and those which could constitute threats. The organic glass components are cheap and easy to manufacture, and do not degrade over time.

Next, the researchers will cast a large prototype for field testing, and hopefully demonstrate that the scintillator can withstand environmental wear and tear, for instance, due to the humidity of ports where checks are carried out. They also hope to adjust the scintillator to distinguish between safe sources of gamma radiation, and those which could be used to make “dirty bombs”. Source: Sandia Laboratory

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)

Flatscan portable scanner

Flatscan 27 portable scanner

Mondial Defence Systems provide the full range of CBRNe (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive) solutions to government, military and civil agencies.

The FlatScan 27 is a highly innovative flat portable battery-powered X-ray photodiodes system that has been specifically designed for high-speed and high-resolution inspection tasks. It incorporates a state-of-the-art 2D (two-dimensional) self-contained robust scanning detector, a laptop computer and a CP120B or CP160B portable constant potential X-ray generator to deliver real-time image processing. FlatScan 27 was developed in cooperation with specialised EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams and comprises various unique features, specifically to meet any emergency situation. The technology will predominantly be of interest for applications used by the military, police, prisons and customs.

The FlatScan 27 comprises a large number of unique technological features and delivers a versatile and highly thin detector (thickness of just 55mm). This detector means that large objects with dimensions up to as much as 535 x 412mm can be scanned in just one attempt, even in situations where they might be located in very inaccessible places (e.g. close to a wall).

Flatscan 27 providing material discrimination and conventional scanning capability

Flatscan 27 providing material discrimination and conventional scanning capability

Furthermore, the FlatScan 27 delivers an excellent image quality with a high penetration capability (up to 34mm of steel at 160kV, 0.5mA). This is possible as a result of its sensitivity, the 800 microns resolution and the ability it offers for slowing down the speed of the scanning detector.

The FlatScan technology can be extended through a variety of options including materials separation. This involves the colour coding of a package to indicate whether the components inside are organic or inorganic in nature. This option delivers extra insight to the operator when making an informed judgment relating to the contents of suspect objects or packages.

The detector is equipped with a battery that lasts for two hours, while the two X-ray source cells each enable the development of up to 200 images. It should be noted that in cases of long-lasting laboratory applications, both items can be powered by optional mains power supplies.

For quick on site intervention, the FlatScan 27 detector can be easily transported in a backpack, while all accessories are stored in a carrying case. For more information visit – http://www.mondial-defence.com

 

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.

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Today, there are many different security inspection technologies available. These technologies may be combined in an attempt to achieve a better result. How the systems are combined strongly affects the results achieved, and different applications may require different combinations. This paper will examine several examples.There are three major applications for screening technology today: Revenue enhancement, contraband detection, and nuclear weapons of mass destruction detection (WMD). Several technologies that can be used are: Portal monitors, gamma ray imagers, high-energy X-ray imagers, and neutron systems. Matching the application and the technology correctly is critical. Port Technology International has published a paper on port security optimization, which addresses the various technologies and approaches towards optimisation of threats, namely revenue, weapons of mass destruction, and contraband highlighting the need for layered technology inspection systems to reduce false positives and enhance enforcement detection capabilities. Read the paper here! Source: Porttechnology.org

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security‘s Science and Technology Directorate and its public and private sector partners have developed a must-have “app”: the First Responder Support Tools (FiRST) for computers and smartphones.

At approximately 6:30 pm on Saturday, May 1, 2010, a smoking SUV in Times Square was reported by alert street vendors. Acting quickly, NYPD evacuated vast stretches on 7th and 8th Avenues, including Broadway theatres and several other buildings and hotels in the area. The entire area was barricaded. Times Square on a Saturday evening before the shows is teaming with people, and the terrorist knew that. The bomb failed, but had it detonated, it would have killed and wounded many, according to NYPD.

In the first chaotic moments after suspicion of a bomb threat, first responders have a myriad of questions, assessments, and decisions to make, all at once, and all the while the scene could be changing rapidly. Is the bomb real? How large is the potential blast radius? Where will we evacuate people? Are there any critical infrastructure or special-needs population centers in the vicinity? Any schools, hospitals nearby? What roads should be closed? Which roads should stay open for evacuees? And on and on….What if they could get all this information in one place?

Now they can: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and its public and private sector partners have developed a must-have “app”: the First Responder Support Tools (FiRST) for computers and smartphones.

Users start by entering what they know about the (possible) bomb, including its geographical location. The app will then advise them on factors such as the distance around the bomb that should be cordoned off, the best locations for road blocks, what buildings should be evacuated or serve as shelter sites, and what some of the local “areas of concern” are – places such as schools, for instance, or other areas where large numbers of people are at risk. It will also estimate what to expect in the way of structural damage and injuries, should the bomb go off.

Because no two bomb threat scenarios are identical, there are many opportunities for users to provide information on their own unique situation, so the output of the app will be custom-tailored to them. Maps of the area can then be labelled by the user, and shared by email with other personnel.

The app can also be used in the event of toxic substance spills, as it includes information on the handling of over 3,000 hazardous materials. Using its weather feature, users can additionally determine the likely route that airborne substances will be carried by prevailing winds, and then warn or evacuate people accordingly. FiRST works on iOS and Android devices, along with PCs. It is available to first responders only, at a price of US$12 for the mobile version, or $100 for the desktop. Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security and gizmag.com

Ports.co.za reports that Nigerian Customs Service has signed an agreement for the delivery of two 24 metre P249 patrol craft, which will use them to combat smuggling and piracy.The supplier is a Cape Town based outfit called Kobus Naval Design (KND). In the context of intra-Africa trade this deal should be considered a real scoop. Kobus Potgieter, CEO of Kobus Naval Design (KND), confirmed that his company had received the order and would deliver the vessels in ten months’ time. The aluminium vessels will be built in Cape Town. This will be the sixth KND designed vessel in the Nigerian waters delivered over the last couple of years. The company is also busy with a dive boat contract for the oil and gas industry in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) also recently approved N1.7 billion (US$11 million) for the purchase of a Cessna Citation CJ4 aircraft for the Customs Service. The aircraft would be used for surveillance missions along Nigeria’s borders and would help combat economic sabotage and cross-border crimes. Alhaji Mohammed Dikko, the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, said that his agency had already acquired the helicopters for surveillance of Nigeria’s borders and added that President Goodluck Jonathan had approved the purchase of 400 Toyota Hilux vehicles for border patrol.

Border control is an increasingly important issue in Nigeria. Militant groups in the oil-producing Niger Delta have been illegally supplying weapons for years and Boko Haram is also believed to have received illegal arms, raising questions about border surveillance, especially after reports that weapons looted from Libya have turned up in Nigeria. Source: Ports.co.za and Defenceweb.co.za

Publication of the latest USCBP Border Patrol Strategic Plan reflects and builds on the transformation of the United States’ relationships with Mexico and Canada, particularly in the areas of border management and security. The joint Declaration of Principles for the 21st-century border represents an enhanced and strengthened commitment to fundamentally restructure the way we manage our shared border. The depth and breadth of cooperation that occurs now between the United States and Mexico was unthinkable even a few years ago. Similarly, the Beyond the Border declaration between Canada and the United States has an equally significant potential in what is already our historically extraordinary relationship with Canada. These developments have created unprecedented opportunities with both Mexico and Canada, in which DHS and CBP will play a defining role, to improve our security and economic competitiveness – and CBP will play a defining role in taking advantage of those opportunities. The Border Patrol in turn is key to advancing CBP’s security agendas with Mexico and Canada, working with its law enforcement counterparts in each country to identify and mitigate threats.

The U.S. Border Patrol is a premier law enforcement organization, recognized around the world for expertise, capabilities, and professionalism. CBP’s officers and agents are the frontline, the guardians of the Nation’s borders. We honor and are proud of them, and we thank them for everything that they do to protect America and the American people. Source: CBP.gov

So there you have it – for a real dose of commercialized Customs and what it can do for the good folks in America, and anywhere else in the world for that matter, check out the strategic plan by clicking here! You’ll be forgiven if you thought you were reading an edition of Jane’s Defense & Security Intelligence & Analysis. Most customs and border management agencies around the world can only dream about such impressive kit! 

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My recent post – Harbour mafia busted! – prompts a serious look at human judgement and the cause and effects of corrupt behaviour. The tragedy of the hit on Johan Nortje brings to reality the result of playing with danger. Those that will subsequently be convicted, most likely never conceived this ‘danger’ at the moment of their initial courtship with the criminal underworld. Neither did they perceive that a fellow law enforcement colleague would bear the brunt of their wrong-doing. That’s the reality of consequence of choice.

The origin of customs collection and control dates back more than 2000 years, as do attempts to undermine a country’s fiscal and economic security. Therefore the scourge of corruption is as old as the laws which gave rise to ‘controls’ at borders and ports of entry. The levying of taxes has always resulted in attempts to circumvent the payment thereof. Corruption of senior officials and politicians is the Achilles heel of poor and developing countries. It is a crime that is largely invisible but its consequences can be far reaching. It destroys confidence and morale in law enforcement structures, and robs local laborers and companies trying to etch out a decent living.

Over the centuries, and particularly the latter decades, governments and their law enforcement arms have fought against fraud in various ways. Populous countries (in the past) always had an abundance of people to staff the Customs or Border agency. Above all it was important for the government of the day to be seen as providing employment, hence a measure of comfort at election time. The close-knit command and control of port and border officials under strict observation of their respective port commanders – who in the past had ultimate control over their regions – proved effective in the main in preventing cross border crimes. However, the emergence of bootlegging and the mafia in the 1930’s (USA) proved a real challenge given that these ‘movements’ had an enormous amount of money to neutralise uncooperative customs officials and law enforcement officers. Buying the cooperation of officials left ‘blackmail’ hanging over the heads of the unfortunate officers. In many cases, breaking silence or turning state witness meant possible assassination for the individual and possibly his family as well. Yet, let it be said that such cross-border crime was very much tangible by way of the persons and the modus operandi involved. No, I’m not suggesting it was easy to contain, but it was certainly a whole lot more visible and localised for the authorities to contend with and address. Still, the manpower and the cost to deploy large task forces on the ground were inhibitive for law enforcement agencies.

Today, the world of ‘illicit goods’ is global; the operators can direct activities from the remotest parts of the world thanks to the information super-highway and all means of information and communication technology available today. Similarly, technology ensures near real-time payments to willing participants in crime. Despite this, the matter of ‘illicit goods’ remains a physical movement requiring ‘people’ to arrange and oversee transportation, and distribution to the buyer. It is a well-known fact that the movement of ‘illicit goods’ has a corresponding financial pipeline through which the profits of crime are channeled. Law enforcement has a challenge in trying to piece these activities together. This will involve cooperation of multiple agencies to bring about a result. More often than not, the selfish ambition of one or other agency overrides the collective approach to smash a syndicate. Once again its the age of key performance areas and indicators, and outcomes based initiatives which get ahead of the real issue – to neutralise an enemy. Today furthermore, unfortunately, its better to secure a huge penalty or forfeiture than to apprehend criminals and face months if not years in court – the revenue target is the primary goal. Money drives both the state and the criminal underworld.

Maybe I will be censured yet. Nonetheless, I will conclude with exercising some freedom of expression concerning views on what I believe fundamentally contributes to criminal and irrational behaviour. The democratic way of modern life has indeed perpetuated a lot of freedoms. With this, however, comes a corresponding responsibility and ability to discern between what is right or wrong. Freedom comes in both guises, sometimes simultaneously so as to confuse the mind – not unlike the ‘forbidden fruit’ in the Garden of Eden – making a choice between the right or wrong path. A flaw in democracy is that it tends to present everything in a “yes we can!” mentality. What this does is ‘challenge’ the individual or group to ‘achieve’. There might be little wrong with this, however, there are no documented guidelines on how to ‘achieve’, hence it is concluded that one must ‘achieve at all costs’. So what has this to do with corruption? The multiplicity of (false) ‘comforts’ offered by the modern world tend to excite the senses and numb the conscience. After all democracy tends to advocate equality in everything, so what can be wrong with a bit of excess, since one has freedom of choice? Wrong! unfortunately, this is the very mentality which drives ‘corrupt’ behaviour. There will always be consequences. Add to this indiscretion some measure of peer pressure, jealousy, or avarice and you have a recipe for a corrupt organisation.

The causes are multi-facetted –

  • The blatant disrespect of corporate structures in not recognising the need for staff to spend quality time with their families. (Less work = less profit and poor returns)
  • Parents too focused on personal gain or pleasing the shareholder, rather than tending to the real needs of their children to build honest citizens.
  • Ill-disciplined ‘educators’ who care little about their ‘learners’ and more about their rights!
  • Law enforcement agencies focused on revenue collection rather than law enforcement.
  • Lack of knowledge amongst politicians and heads of government agencies as to what their real mission ought to be.
  • Lack of a real support base within law enforcement agencies to deal with the threats being faced by their organisation.
  • Lack of role models in our society.

Is it little wonder then that the majority of tendencies today follow corruption? I’ve yet to note a single statesman (sorry states-person) who is morally upright. I would however like to concede that at least that maverick Prof. Jonathan Jansen (University of the Orange Freestate) is not afraid to stand up and talk straight.

Those interested in the topic of organised crime in Africa should can an interesting analysis (below) which the Internet has freely allowed me to obtain. ICT is without doubt a necessary evil!

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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

Smiths Detection HCVportalSmiths Detection has unveiled its next-generation high-energy X-ray scanner, the first pass-through cargo system to offer steel penetration of 30cm combined with three-colour material discrimination. The HCVP 6030 viZual, based on Smiths Detection ABRATM technology, is designed primarily for high-volume cargo screening. It can inspect up to 100 trucks or container loads per hour. The new system is a combination of proven high-energy X-ray technology and advanced material discrimination provides best-in-class performance at the lowest total cost of ownership. It is ideal for rapid cargo throughput with high safety standards for truck drivers and operators alike allowing customs quick and effective enforcement of tax, revenue and fraud laws.

Customer interest in the new cargo screener is already significant and a series of orders has been placed with Smiths Detection even before official market entry.

The HCVP 6030 viZual is based on the most powerful HCV technology platform, incorporating Optical Character Recognition, Automatic Radiation Detection, Electronic Data Interchange and Remote Service maintenance.

The HCVP series systems offer accelerators delivering energy levels from 4MeV to 6MeV, allowing for steel penetration ranging from 230mm (9”) to 300mm (11.8”) while providing a high throughput of up to 195 trucks per hour with a scanning speed of 7 km/4 mph. This innovative automatic free-flow scanning procedure will guarantee a constant vehicle flow on site.

The system’s high performance imaging capability, known as viZual technology (optional), provides the operator with detailed radioscopic images of the container or vehicle and its contents with organic and inorganic material discrimination and colorization based on atomic number for the assisted recognition of threats. The viZual feature allows for reliable results in a single scan.

The modular compact design of the HCVP provides the ability for the system to be relocated, adapting to the customer’s specific needs. The HCVP is a standalone unit which requires limited external infrastructure. The system is designed for ease of operation with a minimal footprint, while still integrating the most demanding international security screening requirements.

The HCVP system’s automated scanning procedure allows the vehicle or container to pass through the x-ray system. The scanning process starts when the end of the driver’s cabin has been detected. The driver and driver’s cabin are not scanned. When equipped with the automatic radioactive material detection – ARD (optional), the HCVP simultaneously carries out both the X-ray inspection and an analysis to detect the presence of radioactive gamma and/or neutron materials within the container or vehicle. The system requires 1 traffic receptionist, 1 system operator, an up to 8 image analysts depending on need. Source: Smiths Detection

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.

While the topic of non-intrusive detection equipment there has been much-a-do about the shortage of helium over the last 18 months, the impact this may have for existing investments in scanner and radiation detection equipment poses an even more ominous question, particularly those countries and agencies having already invested in US-based technology.

The demand for nuclear detectors exploded (if you’ll pardon the expression) from 8,000l/year to ten times that in 2008 due to increased efforts to stop nuclear proliferation and terrorism. But production of helium-3, a critical element in nuclear detection technology, has not kept pace and existing stockpiles are quickly dwindling. Alternatives are currently in the early stages of development and researchers have found several promising leads; when an alternative is found, current radiation detection equipment will have to be replaced with the new technology.

Helium-3 is a decay product of tritium, a heavy isotope of hydrogen used to enhance the yield of nuclear weapons, but whose production stopped in 1988. The half-life decay of tritium is about 12 years, and the U.S. supply for helium-3 is fed by harvesting the gas from dismantled or refurbished nuclear weapons. However, production of helium-3 hasn’t kept pace with the exponential demand sparked by the Sept. 11 attacks.

Projected demand for the non-radioactive gas in 2010 is said to be more than 76,000 litres per year, while U.S. production is a mere 8,000 litres annually, and U.S. total supply rests at less than 48,000 litres. This shortage wasn’t identified until a workshop put on by the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Physics in August 2008. Between 2004 and 2008, about 25,000 litres of helium-3 annually was entering the U.S. from Russia. Right around the time of the August workshop, Russia decided it was “reserving its supplies for domestic use.

Helium-3 is primarily used in security applications as it is highly sensitive to the neutrons that are emitted by plutonium. Roughly 80 percent of helium-3 supplies are used for national security. Since 9/11 demand for radiation detectors increased sharply, however production failed to increase. The shortage is reported to severely effect even the handheld and backpack detectors used by the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and Transportation Security Administration. A representative of General Electric Energy, which manufactures radiation detectors, said, “Up to six different neutron-detection technologies may be required to replace helium-3 detectors” for its four main uses and “[a] drop-in replacement technology for helium-3 does not exist today.” When an acceptable alternative is found, current radiation detection equipment will have to be replaced with the new technology. In the meantime, industrial manufacturers of detection equipment have been diversifying their helium-3 sources and turning to recycling old helium-3 canisters.

In June 2011, however, General Electric (GE) did announce that it had introduced a new radiation detection solution using boron-10 (10B) to detect radiation in border security applications. These detectors are key components of radiation portal monitors used in a wide range of applications including screening at borders and in seaports. GE is the only company to date to manufacture an alternate neutron detection technology for deployment in radiation portal monitors.

It still needs to be seen how manufacturers will deal with their existing customers. Concerned Customs Administrations and Security Agencies should be reviewing the terms and conditions of their supply agreements in the meantime. Future acquisitions will no doubt look at Helium-3 based technology with sceptism unless they are uninformed.

Sources: WIRED, General Electric

X-Ray Security Screening Market 2011-2016Despite years of cutting edge weapon and explosives screening technology Research, Development, Test & Evaluation (RDT&E), there is no competitive modality on the market, which challenges the cost-performance of X-ray screening technologies. This is a significant drawback for security agencies and funding bodies when considering the multi-year investments which need to be costed to operate a successful and effective scanner inspection solution. The capital cost of the equipment is but one facet, one also needs to consider the HR and facilities which need to be procured to make all this work. The Homeland Security Research Corporation (HSRC) have therefore made significant improvements over the years to the scope and content of their market analysis to make visible the scope, application and longevity of such equipment.

Over the next six years, HSRC analysts forecast that, led by the USA, China and India, the global X-ray security screening market (including systems sales, service, and upgrades) will grow from $1.0 billion in 2010 to $1.9 billion by 2016.

HSRC’s latest report, is the most comprehensive review of the multibillion global X-ray security screening market available today. It analyses and forecasts the market by application, by country and by business transaction.

The report, segmented into 50 sub-markets, offers for each sub-market 2010 data and 2011-2016 forecasts and analysis. In 210 pages, 87 tables and 118 figures, the report analyses and projects the 2011-2016 market and technologies from several perspectives, including:

  • Market forecast by application: Air cargo, Airport-cabin baggage, Secured facilities, Postal items, Supply chain cargo and People.
  • National and regional markets: e.g., US, UK, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Brazil
  • X-Ray Technologies: conventional, back-scatter, multi-view, coherent, dual energy
  • Systems Sales, post warranty service and upgrade markets
  • Competitive environment:6 leading vendors and their products
  • Market analysis: e.g., market drivers & inhibitors, SWOT analysis
  • Business environment: e.g., competitive analysis
  • Current and pipeline technologies
  • Business opportunities and challenges

At a purchase cost just shy of US$ 4,500 for this market analysis, procurement officers would do well to familiarise themselves with the WCO’s Guidelines for the Purchase and Deployment of Scanning/Imaging Equipment. While it won’t provide all the answers, it certainly outlines the key areas for evaluation. Better still, secure the services of a non-intrusive inspection expert, typically with procurement and implementation experience who can guide and recommend the most cost-effective and practical solution. These experts can also offer significant help in the development of associated organisation planning and performance structures.

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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!