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Rail News: Intermodal

Carriers shouldn't wait for shippers to take next container-security step, says ocean-carrier exec


Container security depends on coordination among all cargo-moving parties and end-to-end shipment information, said Chuck Raymond, chairman, president and chief executive officer of ocean carrier Horizon Lines L.L.C. during a speech at the National Defense Industrial Association Transportation Security Administration Conference held Aug. 6 in Charleston, S.C.

"With the question of information integrity now in the forefront, how do we further secure the supply chain when we cannot necessarily trust all the data being provided?" he asked. "All shipment information should be required from the point of the shipment's origin in advance of container stuffing."

Each year, more than 6 million containers enter U.S. ports aboard more than 5,000 ships making more than 50,000 port calls, Raymond estimates.

"Can we be sure — today — that a shipper will not falsely declare a shipment's contents and enable a container to explode inside one of our seaports or largest cities?" he asked. "[Each mode] has to have the capability to provide status information relative to their portion of the supply chain — origin through to destination."

Shippers bear the responsibility of providing the first piece of cargo data, and some are adopting electronic seals and tags, warehousing systems and access controls to boost security, Raymond said. Wal-Mart Inc. recently mandated that its top 100 suppliers be able to track pallets using radio frequency identification tags by January 2005.

"So, now the question becomes: Will it take until January 2005 and a Wal-Mart lead for the next step in cargo security?" Raymond asked. "Can we, as a country, sit back and wait another 18 months to see how Wal-Mart and their partners make this work? In the meantime, leaving us potentially vulnerable to another terrorist attack, which would further impact our economy."