‘We need to be policy influencers and shapers’

Congress’ recently enacted SAFE Port Act affords plenty of opportunity to help shape supply chain security. Now it’s up to shippers and transportation providers to get involved. That was the message delivered by a leading container shipping security expert.

‘We need to be outspoken on the topic of security policy,’ said Earl Agron, Vice President of Security for APL, the world’s eighth-largest container steamship line. ‘We need to be policy influencers and shapers ’ not couch potatoes.’ Agron delivered his call to action to 120 shippers at the American Apparel and Footwear Association annual conference in Memphis.

Characterizing the SAFE Port Act as the most significant port security legislation in the past five years, Agron urged his audience to work with lawmakers, government officials and their own trade association on issues ranging from container security standards to radiation scanning in foreign ports. ‘We have to ensure we get the most out of each security dollar we spend,’ he said.

The SAFE Port Act signed by President Bush last October addresses issues including:

  • Stimulating development of new technology to improve port security;
  • Providing legislative authority for key elements of US supply chain security strategy such as C-TPAT (Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism); and
  • <;li>Creating a trade resumption plan in case of an attack on US ports or waterways.

Agron, a member of the Customs Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations (COAC), called the SAFE Port Act ‘an intelligent approach to complicated issues.’ He hailed provisions in the act requiring the Department of Homeland Security to collaborate with the private sector in development of supply chain security programs. But he cautioned that several issues under study warrant careful scrutiny.

Chief among those issues, he said, is container security standards. Agron told shippers to be wary of proposals requiring electronic seals or other security devices on containers. They won’t be effective in securing containers and could provide a false sense of security, Agron said, adding that a secure seal or container security device does not equal a secure container.

Likewise, Agron opposed 100% scanning of cargo containers before entering US ports. There isn’t enough money, manpower or technology to make the proposal feasible, he said.

Agron advised shippers to weigh in on these and other issues to ensure that supply chain security is improved and the free flow of trade protected.

‘Volunteer, become a contributor,’ he urged. ‘Work with your service providers in presenting common positions. The Safe Port Act provides us with opportunities to affect port security. We can’t let the opportunity pass by.’