Can This Weakness be Fixed?
The good news is that specialized companies and container security device (CSD) technology exist today that can fix the problem of not really knowing the contents of the container. First, the shipper could use an international firm such as SGS or Cotecna who are able to physically verify contents at the time of stuffing, and sealing the container. Second, the shipper could use CSDs that electronically identify and record any authorized agent of the shipper to verify the cargo and seal the container. CSDs then monitor its movement, its access, its internal environment, its arrival at destination and identify and record the person authorized to open the container.
Having worked in the law enforcement and counterintelligence field for years, I'll be the first to admit that there is no perfect system of security. All security entails human elements and interactions. The human element, however, can be a strong positive element in the security process as evidenced by the legal concept of a "chain-of-custody" which inextricably links individuals to integrity of the chain-of-custody's purpose and function. So too, does a human's role relate to verifying the contents of a container.
These existing devices can provide that level of control necessary to satisfy the needs of exporters, importers and carriers with respect to supply chain visibility, effectiveness, and efficiency while meeting the needs of governments with respect to security. In addition to the benefit of actually knowing the contents of the container, the use of these devices can also provide a special benefit to the vessel carriers in light of the impending Rotterdam Rules. Ultimately, the combination of new technology and new rules for vessel carriers will elevate the 24-hr. manifest to be the security assurance as it was meant to be. Until that happens, CSI is weak and we are at risk.
About the author: Dr. Giermanski is the Chairman of Powers Global Holdings, Inc. and President of Powers International, LLC, an international transportation security company. He served as Regents Professor at Texas A&M International University, and as an adjunct graduate faculty member at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He was Director of Transportation and Logistics Studies, Center for the Study of Western Hemispheric Trade at Texas A&M International University. He has frequently given invited testimony on NAFTA, transportation, and other international business issues before the U.S. Senate and House, the Texas Senate and House, EPA, and the U.S. International Trade Commission.