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New Technologies Show Promise for Port and Airport Security, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

U.S. transportation hubs continue in their efforts to keep passengers and freight safe and security costs under control.  To achieve this, airports, railway stations and ports are developing new technologies and strategies.  However, there are problems with disgruntled airport passengers complaining of long lines; the inconvenience of removing clothing such as jackets, belts and shoes; the frequency of selection for more thorough searches using metal detecting wands and pat downs, and more recent concerns about radiation exposure and privacy when using full body scans.
Several detection systems are already widely used at airports.  Standard metal scanners are still the norm in most airports around the world.  The Sentinel II, made by British security firm Smiths Detection which uses puffs of air to scan for explosives, proved too costly and too prone to breakdowns and has been removed from U.S. airports.
EDS (Explosives Detection System) machines are currently in place at hundreds of U.S. airports.  EDS scans bags for unusual densities, which are typical in explosive devices.  ETD (Explosives-Trace-Detection) machines, installed at all U.S. airports, can detect trace particles of explosives contained in baggage.
U.S. Customs has expedited entry kiosks at dozens of U.S. airports allowing U.S. citizens (and permanent residents) who have paid $100, passed a government background check and placed their fingerprints on file, to bypass long lines when re-entering the U.S.  An additional program that is open to Trusted Travelers, as well as Global Entry users, is called TSA PreCheck.
Private firm CLEAR operates a government-approved program that pre-checks it members and designates them as trusted travelers, enabling them to move through airport security faster.  A high level of personal information must be provided to CLEAR.  CLEAR was founded using the technology assets of an earlier firm which failed and went bankrupt.
Port security is another hot issue.  Industry analysts estimate that at any given time there are approximately 18 million cargo containers in circulation throughout the world, and any number of those containers could be vulnerable to terrorist activity.
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government instituted a program in which all shippers sending goods to U.S. ports must deliver an electronic manifest of every container’s contents to the U.S. Customs Service 24 hours before being loaded on a ship in a foreign port.  The program is called the Container Security Initiative (CSI).  Cargos, shippers or handlers who are deemed “high risk” by the Customs Service have their associated containers x-rayed or physically searched before loading.  This works out to be between 5% and 10% of all containers to arrive at U.S. ports.
Generally, local port authorities are governmental units that own the real estate around their shipping ports.  These port authorities lease real estate to terminal operators.  Frequently, these terminal operators are foreign-based, and occasionally they are even owned by foreign governments.  However, these terminal operators have little or nothing to do with port security, which is the focus primarily of federal agencies including the Coast Guard and U.S. Customs authorities.
Potential security risks at ports are widespread, and there is a great business opportunity here for service providers and firms that can create breakthrough security technology.  While aboard ships in transit or in port, containers are hardly tamperproof—it would be easy enough for someone with ill intent to add to or alter the cargo.  Physical security measures in and around U.S. ports may include Coast Guard patrols, local police patrols and port security personnel, along with security cameras and lighting.  Nonetheless, ports are vast, extremely busy operations, and security measures at present are sorely taxed to provide broad coverage.  Meanwhile, the huge quantity of trucks and rail cars coming and going to and from ports present another immense security risk.
Technology offers some hope for container security.  The Hong Kong Terminal Operators Association was involved in a successful pilot program, utilizing state of the art scanners on every container entering either of two large container terminals by truck.  While sitting on flatbed trucks, the containers are screened by an x-ray-like device based on gamma-rays to look for suspicious objects.  Likewise, the containers are scanned for radiation.  This system, known as Integrated Container Inspection System or ICIS, is offered by an American firm, Commercial Fleet Export, Inc., based in St. Louis, Missouri.  ICIS can collect and integrate data from sources such as shipping records, terminal information systems and customs intelligence.  Each container’s identification is scanned into a database where data on container scans and inspections are used as the basis for container tracking and intelligence.
Congress requires shippers in foreign ports to scan containers that will be shipped to the U.S. for potential weapons or explosive materials.  Evaluating inbound containers has finally reached a high level of success.  To begin with, all containers headed to the U.S. are “screened.”  This involves the use of Customs officers to check manifests, shipping history and other data, including officers who are working at more than 50 ports in foreign nations.  Containers considered to be high risk are then inspected physically.


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