The 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 Earl Agron, v.p. of security for APL, the eighth-largest container steamship line, to 120 shippers at the recent American Apparel and Footwear Association annual conference in Memphis.
"We need to be outspoken on the topic of security policy," said Agron. "We need to be policy influencers and shapers—not couch potatoes."
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.
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 U.S. 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."
APL is a global container transportation company offering more than 60 Middle East and the Americas. It is a unit of Singapore-based Neptune Orient Lines (NOL), a global logistics and transportation company.