A Five-Step Plan for Better Supply Chain Security

Like-minded countries must work together to find the best way to make international trade more secure, says Earl Agron, vice president of security for global container carrier, APL (www.apl.com).

During the recent Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Symposium on Total Supply Chain Security in Singapore, Agron told an audience of government, military and industry leaders that the five key steps that would help improve supply chain security are:

  1. A concentrated focus on public-private sector collaboration
  2. More information for the effective targeting of suspect containers
  3. An intelligent regulatory framework; balancing security with trade flow
  4. Improved non-intrusive container inspection technology
  5. Development of long-term security technology solutions through the collaboration of supply chain stakeholders.

The public sector's primary responsibility was to protect its citizens, said Agron, a 25-year APL veteran, who has an extensive background in equipment logistics and container terminal operations. However, the private sector owns and operates much of the supply-chain infrastructure that could fall prey to terrorist attack. Agron repeatedly said that a balance must be struck between the need to secure the supply chain without bringing global trade to a halt.

The biggest challenge in supply chain security, said Agron, was knowing "what's in the box," referring to the millions of cargo containers constantly circling the globe. More information on who is shipping and receiving cargo and where it was loaded could help customs and border protection officials target suspect containers that require inspection.

Agron urged for the more effective deployment of radiation portals and gamma ray detection equipment to screen containers. But he cautioned that new security technologies must be developed collaboratively by supply-chain stakeholders, and that such technology has to be cost effective.

"There is an avalanche of technology solutions looking for a problem to solve," said Agron. "We need to pause and find the right technology in a more systematic way."

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