Mastering the art of supply chain security

Nov. 7, 2004
From large and ornate objects (such as this royal car), to paintings (shown is Vermeer's "The Procuress"), and even letters from America's founding fathers,

From large and ornate objects (such as this royal car), to paintings (shown is Vermeer's "The Procuress"), and even letters from America's founding fathers, the proper shipment of museum exhibits is itself an artform.

LeRoy Pettijohn has a different view of transportation security than most. Vice president of third-party logistics (3PL) services provider Mallory Alexander's Fine Arts Division (, Pettijohn handles some of the most unusual and valuable freight in the world. This puts him behind the scenes in a lot of transportation venues and gives him a unique view of security processes and procedures.

Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, many museums and collectors were reluctant to release artwork and artifacts for traveling exhibits. Some of that concern may have been for the safety of the items, but more likely it was cost. There has been a significant cost increase in insurance premiums, especially if the insurance company requires a terrorism clause in the coverage, notes Pettijohn. That works into the transportation cost.

The perception is that the risk has increased during transportation, not during the exhibit. He says premiums for insurance on the exhibits have not increased at the same pace as transportation insurance costs. That implies the underwriters view the exhibit venue a less likely target for thieves or terrorists than the transportation link.

In a recent project moving an exhibition of paintings, Pettijohn says the insurance company required the shipment be split between two trucks. It would have fit easily into one, but the insurance company set the requirement. "At the last minute, we had to find a courier to accompany the second truck, we had to buy one-way airline tickets for the courier, then there were the additional hotels and per diem." The added cost: $9,000.

Advance notice requirements have not posed much in the way of additional security risks, says Pettijohn. On some shipments of artifacts containing materials like ivory, coral or wildlife material covered under endangered species rules, U.S. Fish and Wildlife can require notice well ahead of the advance notice requirements of the Trade Act of 2002.

Some private organizers like to get a lot of publicity about exhibits, and this can pose a little more risk than the information that is handled by transportation and sercurity workers. Inside the logistics channel, the information is treated confidentially.

Inspections may pose some other risks. Though much of what Pettijohn handles is excluded from routine inspection, he has watched inspection processes at air cargo facilities. Waiting for the workers to reach his place in the queue, he has seen them open and inspect shipments and then reseal them. In some cases, shipments that are opened for inspection are labeled as having undergone security inspection.

The people performing inspections aren't trained in how to pack shipments, and Pettijohn wonders where the liability rests if the shipments are not repacked properly.

As for the physical facilities, Pettijohn has seen a marked increase in security awareness. He often shows up with an armed police officer to escort a shipment from the vehicle to the terminal and then as it is loaded aboard the next conveyance. Entering an air facility, he has been challenged and has had his movements restricted without an airline employee escort. With an escort, things proceed normally, but all of this adds cost to the process, Pettijohn notes.

Though it has made his job a little more complicated, Pettijohn can attest to the fact that the added security requirements are a benefit for everyone, and he quickly adds his support for everything from the increased cargo terminal security to passenger security. It has added more time, more cost and sometimes more frustration, but Pettijohn concludes, "I feel a lot safer."

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