Latest US container 100% scanning postponement predictable

Rapiscan_m60UK freight forwarders have welcomed but are not surprised by the latest US postponement by two years of the implementation of new rules requiring all cargo containers entering the US to be security scanned prior to departure from overseas ports, with national association BIFA reiterating calls for the initiative to be abandoned.

Peter Quantrill, Director General of the British International Freight Association (BIFA), said it was “hardly surprising” to hear the recent news that the US had delayed the introduction of the new rules “amid questions over whether this is the best way to protect US ports”, calling the move “a healthy dose of common sense”.

Mr Quantrill commented: “As BIFA has said repeatedly, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has consistently underestimated the enormity of the task in hand relative to the costs both to the US government and foreign governments – as well as, importantly, the limited ability of contemporary screening technology to penetrate dense cargo, or large quantities of cargo in shipping containers.”

The deadline for implementation of 100% scanning of all inbound containers has already been delayed from 2012 to 1 July, 2014, and US Secretary for Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, who took over the role just six months ago, has now reportedly decided on another 24-month postponement.

BIFA’s comments follow the recent news of a letter from Thomas Carper, chairman of the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which suggested that the use of systems available to scan containers would have a negative impact on trade capacity and the flow of cargo.

Quantrill adds: “Media reports suggest that the US Government now doubts whether it would be able to implement the mandate of 100% scanning, even in the long term, and it would appear that it now shares BIFA’s long-standing opinion that it is not the best use of taxpayer resources to meet the USA’s port security and homeland security needs.

“We have always said that expanding screening with available technology would slow the flow of commerce and drive up costs to consumers without bringing significant security benefits.”

He continued: “Whilst the latest news of a two-year delay appears to be a healthy dose of common sense at the US Department of Homeland Security, BIFA still believes that the US Government ought to take an even bolder step and repeal the original legislation.

“That would be the most appropriate way to address this flawed provision and allow the Department and the industry to continue to focus on real solutions, including strengthened risk-based management systems to address any security gaps that remain in global supply chains.”  Source: Lloyds Loading List

100% Container Scanning in Ports – a solution on the horizon?

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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The Case for Screening-as-a-Service

In an interview with The Maritime Executive, Peter Kant, executive vice president for Rapiscan Systems informed that the primary business of a port is serving as a hub for water-borne commerce and all of the logistics that entails, with each port competing for the business of shippers and container operators. Every investment made by a port authority, from a crane to a dredge to a security checkpoint, must be based on how this activity will not only position the port to current customers, but how it will affect the attraction of future customers.

Increasingly, however, these investments are including more and more security needs, from container scanning equipment to operator training to security architectures. Security, and in particular security screening, is not the core business of a ports authority, but compliance with national and international guidelines demands that certain security standards be met, or losing customers will be the last of a port authority’s worries.

But even though security screening is an absolute necessity, many ports are looking to get out of the security game altogether. But will the departure from security make ports less secure…or could it actually enhance cargo scanning operations?

The Heavy Burden of Screening
As mentioned earlier, port authorities are not experts when it comes to security, especially a task as granular as cargo screening. It’s not just about a “mean guard and a magnet” when it comes to screening anymore, and this especially holds true to the world of maritime cargo. First, the right technology must be installed, a solution that can effectively analyze cargo for potential contraband or threats, both conventional and radioactive. Then, a port authority must determine the best location for the screening checkpoint, and oversee the construction of the location, both in terms of port impact and traffic optimization.

Next come the installation and calibration of the scanning technology, as well as the hiring and training of security operators. The authority must also establish a workflow for what happens when a container is flagged – what requires a manual inspection? Who approves such an operation? What remediation must take place after the fact?

The fact of the matter is, cargo scanning isn’t just about putting containers through an X-ray machine. It’s much, much more than that, and consumes enough time that establishing and running a checkpoint can adversely affect port business.

But there is an easier way to run cargo screening operations. Port authorities are experts in maritime commerce, so why shouldn’t they turn to experts in security screening to run cargo scanning operations?

Cargo Scanning-as-a-Service
Rather than trying to become cargo screening experts overnight, port authorities can take advantage of a major trend in the overall security world: security-screening-as-a-service. Essentially, port operators form a partnership with an experienced security screening solutions provider, tasking the provider, not the port, with the onus of establishing and running a cargo scanning checkpoint.

Other than the obvious benefit of freeing the port authority from the security logistics headache, why turn to cargo screening as a service? For one, 100 percent screening in the United States has not gone away…at least not yet. But even if the requirements on cargo entering the USA are loosened, port screening for contraband is not going to decrease – in this economic climate, governments want to ensure that everything that can be taxed is taxed. This is a nightmare scenario for port authorities to deal with, but one with which screening solutions provider are comfortable. With their experience in the field, these providers can find the right equipment and checkpoint set-up to be as thorough and detailed as needed when it comes to cargo scanning, ensuring that not only are potential threats detected, but any contraband can be swiftly dealt with by the appropriate authorities.

Going with an experienced screening partner can also add radiation detection capabilities, a growing problem in the world of maritime commerce. Radioactive materials, either improperly labeled or being shipped as contraband, can shut ports down for days and are impossible to detect via conventional cargo screening technologies. By utilizing screening-as-a-service, however, port authorities can place this additional burden on the solutions provider, which has the experience and the right capabilities to detect radiation alongside conventional contraband and threats.

Training of security operators is another headache that cargo scanning as a service eliminates for the port. The difference between a major international incident and millions of dollars in fines can hinge entirely on the competency of a security screening operator. Do port authorities really want to be responsible for the skills of these professionals, especially when it’s in a field far outside of their comfort zones?

With cargo scanning as a service, training falls into the lap of the solutions provider, a task with which they are well familiar. Because they have built, installed and maintained the security technologies selected, these organizations best understand how to train professionals on the ins-and-outs of analyzing scanned images and detecting potential threats and contraband.

The service also gives ports a major competitive advantage, as a well-designed, specially-staff cargo scanning checkpoint makes the entire security process far easier for customers to deal with. Throughput is often increased, meaning that cargo makes it to its end destination more quickly and with fewer roadblocks, a paramount concern for shippers everywhere. Even a few hours delay can be costly, especially when perishable goods like imported produce are involved.

The Real World
Perhaps most importantly, cargo-scanning-as-a-service is not a pipe dream or some theoretical solution for ports. It’s already in practice and being used by some of the largest customs and port operations in the world.

The Ports Authority of Puerto Rico, for example, utilizes cargo-screening-as-a-service from a customs perspective, ensuring that no contraband is entering the island through its major ports. By enlisting an outside, specialized security solutions provider, the Port has increased throughput without sacrificing the integrity of its customs or security operations.

The Mexican Customs Authority has also turned to a wide-ranging cargo-screening-as-a-service solution for their operations, both land-locked and maritime. The major project has just recently been undertaken, but ultimately the vast majority of Mexican ports will soon be turning to screening-as-a-service when it comes to cargo, freeing the ports to focus on the business, not contraband detection.

Detecting threats and contraband via maritime cargo is not going to get any easier. If anything, smugglers, criminals and terrorist organizations are becoming more and more clever when it comes to getting illicit goods, weapons and hazardous materials across national borders. Port authorities trying to stay one step ahead of these issues are in for a struggle, as other aspects of the port business suffer.

Keep the port operator’s attention where it belongs (on the port) and let specialized experts handle the cargo scanning burden. It’s proven, it works, and it’s the best way forward to maritime prosperity and safety. Source: The Maritime Executive