Interview with Bertrand Geoffray

(soon online the italian version)

Which were the issues on security in the recent Malta Conference of the Bic?

The conference has been the occasion to state the recent evolutions of the different International Standard on one side, and the present status of the available intelligent technologies on the other.
Container doors: Change of standard 1496-1 on door and security to improve the sealing efficiency and the prevention of tampering Mechanical seals , Standard ISO 17712 Implementation of a standard for testing, which add focus on tamper testing.
Development of a standard aiming at the validation of security related manufacturer’s processes (Normative annex), and more precision brought to the definition of the independence, accreditation and scope of testing companies. So a fully compliant seal can only by produce by compliant manufacturers. But one can see some developments in the US and EU, associated to respectively C-TPAT and AEO agreements which could lead to regulatory decisions creating some confusion v.v. the presently approved standard.
E-Seal Standard ISO 18185, Published in 2007
Still of a modest use based on the benefit brought in operational security and tracking matters, and not on post 9/11 government inducements. Various initiatives are in development often under pilot phases in China which mix e-sealing, CSD and RFID, they are mostly based on non standard devices and processes and could bring perturbation in the industry. CSD (Container security device): Various operational devices are already on the market, ready for global deployment, effective, easy to fit, reusable and economically affordable. They are fixed inside the container after stuffing and before closing and sealing the doors. Their use is consequently under the operational and financial responsibility of the shipper.
It was understood that U.S. DHS (department of Homeland security) could set technology requirement to qualify users for C-TPAT tier III ‘green lane’, but the lack of CBP (Customs and Border Protection) requirement for qualification of such CSD did slow the market, and, It seems lately that technology has become less important for C-TPAT tier III as many firms recently qualified without CSD. It could consequently well be that market accelerate for the use of CSD without waiting for CBP decision in matter of CSD qualification, and as a consequence only a technology optimized to serve the supply chain profitability will dominate the industry best practices. High security capabilities (“post 9/11”) will not drive the market without government mandate or subsidy as they have marginal not cost effective anti terror benefit, and will be limited to special niche.

How international rules in matter of security impact on the efficiency of the shipping industry?

We still observe the continuous development of the various agreements and regulations related to the security of the movement of goods. It includes new developments for already implemented rules and agreements, and enforcement of new ones -ISPS, CSI, C-TPAT (now tier III as mentioned above), SAFE, AEO, 24hours advance manifest declaration (with 10+2 development), scanning, …,to name a few –which are progressively implemented by various countries with national adjustment and specificities. All those regulations implies declarations and checking, the necessity of which is not discussed, but which have an impact on the documentation and physical transport processes, with consequence on the cost efficiency of the transport chain. In my opinion, the industry has progressively adjusted its working processes to these new rules in the past years and they have not so far slow down the physical move of goods to a level which would represent a handicap for the industry. These negative effects are generated by each national regulation in itself on one hand, but as their necessity is not discussed, one should highlight on the other hand their great variety and difference from one country to the other which complicates the work for shipping companies as well as for forwarders, shippers and receivers, and the absence of standard and reciprocal agreement for the certification of the operators. However, it seems that the trend is, starting from initial unilateral decisions made by the US after 9/11 drama, that there are now discussions to develop bilateral agreements with reciprocal validity of the certifications. This is currently dealt with by national and regional competent authorities, and in the frame of the WCO and other international bodies.

The BIC will play what kind of role?

The core responsibility of BIC is to provide the industry with a clear identification of container owners or operators, with the maintenance of a central database which protect the ownership and the unicity of the code, according to the ISO 6346 and the Customs Convention for Container of 1972. But BIC contribution goes far further with the presence of its experts in most of the committees and working group which work on the evolution of the various Conventions, Regulations and Standards, internationally and regionally, with the aim to facilitate the transport of goods in a well controlled worldwide frame.

The container have simplified the issues?

The positive impact of containerization is not contested, in all the areas of the transport chain, including security and safety. As a matter of fact, the containerization would not have seen the growth it enjoyed in the last 40 years if it had not also efficiently addressed and met the safety and control criteria claimed for by the industry itself, but also by its customers and by the various Administrations involved in the supply chain. It is a shared evidence that without the container, it should not be possible, -to transport the present volume of goods in the world and meet the requirement of the supply chain, at a sheer physical as well as documentary level, -while being able to meet in a cost efficient way the presently requested criteria in matter of national and international regulations of all kind including secuirty and safety, -and to continuously adjust and meet the demand for improvement coming from all these fields.

And th role of technology?

Container on board technology: The container on board technologies suffer from still quite a limited development in real operations, while one can see that a lot of pilots are initiated nowadays, using a great variety of solutions, sometimes without great consideration for a standardization which is necessary for an industry which can only operate at a worldwide level. However, technology such as E-seal, Container Security Devices (CSD), Radio identification (RFID) must have a great future if one can stick to minimum rules like :
-Standardization worldwide
-Sturdiness to face the working conditions, transport, handling, marine environment …
-Simplicity and cost efficiency
-Avoid to conceive complex products which cover needs which are already safely and fully covered in prevailing IT solutions (cargo description, documentation, …) and which can transport data that are not necessary, or not wise, to carry with the container.

Land technology: Some of these technologies developed ashore must come along with the development of container on board technologies. Others are purely land-based and must be aimed at improving the safety of the exchanges without jeopardizing the efficiency of these exchanges. One can already say that the projected 100% scanning that the USA plan to impose to the world without imposing it to themselves does go in the wrong direction.

Do you think there is an impact of the financial crisis on the development of the security issues?

Obviously, the current financial crisis does already have an impact on the shipping industry, and this impact can develop up to a severe level in absolutely all fields of the industry and of the supply chain, from shipbuilding and port building down to shelf delivery. The dangerousity of the world we live in at the beginning of the 3rd millennium will not be affected positively by this crisis. It is too early to see if it has already an impact on the development of the safety issues and related rules and regulations, but I think that, even if it slow down one project or the other, it is unlikely that at a global level it will significantly compromise the enforcement of existing rules and procedures and the development of the projects which are currently on the shelves.

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