It's been three weeks since explosives were found in cargo packages destined for the US. Although the public focus on security has shifted to the US Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) rigorous screening of passengers, cargo carriers are in the process of reviewing and improving their security measures as well.
“Right now, we are meeting with various government agencies and global industry groups and sharing best practices,” says Susan Rosenberg, public relations manager with UPS in Atlanta. Rosenberg points out that UPS chairs a number of US and international security committees and is continually reviewing its own processes and procedures. “Part of the dialog we have internally is balancing the response to any additional threats and keeping commerce moving,” she says. “Security activities within each individual country vary and our priority is to protect our people, our aircraft and our customers' shipments.”
Like any global business, cargo carriers must meet numerous local and regional security standards. Similar to environmental regulations, these vary from country to country. “This is definitely a global effort,” says Rosenberg, “and we are sharing information throughout our international network as well as within specific regions and countries.”
Since the explosives were first discovered on October 29, governments, security agencies and carriers have been careful not to point fingers at one another. UPS will say that its security review includes the various subcontractors and freight agencies that help support its global network.
In some cases, says Rosenberg, UPS itself acts as a freight forwarder — loading cargo on to other carriers. An effective security process has to look at the entire landscape of the supply chain from sourcing to delivery and back through the return process if necessary, she says. “We are not looking at one [all encompassing] security program; we are looking at all of the issues and all of the standards and seeing where there are consistencies across the globe.”
Because of legal requirements, carriers can't publicly discuss the security measures that they have in place or plan to execute in the future. UPS' current system contains numerous layers of inspection and screening, Rosenberg says. However, UPS review is being done with an eye toward improving security at any point in the process. “Right now, we can be most effective by being closely involved with the global organizations that are reviewing security protocols and determining what additional changes they may make. Within these reviews — which are ongoing — we will take any opportunity we can to see what we can enhance,” Rosenberg says.
In the meantime, the TSA has strengthened its passenger-screening methods mere days before the holiday travel season. Depending on who you listen to, the TSA is either irradiating people to death or groping grannies. Business travelers: how are you faring under the new system? And are you dreading traveling for the holidays?