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Mon 3 Mar 2008 04:00 AM

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Control centre

Transguard's valuable handling facility in Dubai Airport Free Zone is the most technologically advanced security operation in the Middle East. Air Cargo Middle East & India takes an exclusive tour around the region's very own Fort Knox.

Transguard's valuable handling facility in Dubai Airport Free Zone is the most technologically advanced security operation in the Middle East. Air Cargo Middle East & India takes an exclusive tour around the region's very own Fort Knox.

Last year, Transguard, a subsidiary of Emirates Security Group created the most secure handling facility in the Middle East. With an initial investment of approximately US$13.6 million, the purpose built building is fully equipped to deal with all possible threats to high value goods.

We have an advanced integrated system using all known forms of connectivity. - Dr Abdullah Al Hashimi

No stone has been left unturned in the group's quest to offer complete protection to the supply chain. Covered by a state of the art security and CCTV surveillance system, the fortress is guarded on a 24 hour basis and provides direct airside access to Dubai International Airport.

Transguard is the exclusive security provider for the ever expanding Emirates Group and its vast operation covers all forms of security across the airport and the adjoining Dubai Cargo Village. Yet it is the fort shaped building in Dubai Airport Free Zone that is the vital cog in the operation.

"We have all the necessary infrastructure and equipment to provide a ‘one stop shop' for the handling of valuable airfreight," says Dr Abdullah Al Hashimi, divisional senior vice president, group security, Emirates.

"With airside access and large storage facilities complemented with the presence of ground handling agents and regulatory agencies inside the building, such as customs and police, we are able to offer a complete service to valuable cargo shippers. The system in place covers the entire import and export process for valuable movement," he elaborates.

Opened to support Dubai's growing stature as a transport hub, the building has a number of high security vaults and a range of cash handling equipment. High value goods transited in the facility range from the traditional, such as gold, diamonds and bank notes, to the more unique, such as valuable paintings or antiques. In particular, attention is paid to the temperature within the handling areas for such sensitive items.

The controlled environment within the Valuable Strong Room offers an ideal storage facility for these delicate and irreplaceable goods," notes Al Hashimi.

The facility is found adjacent to Dubai airport's runways, which allows Transguard a quick and efficient route for transporting high value goods directly to its vaults. The security company's vans therefore regularly meet arriving aircrafts, collect the goods and return immediately through the high level security gates back into the facility.

Each van is implemented with a GPRS tracking device that allows the company to monitor its every position, be it in the airport or when collecting goods outside of the vicinity.

Goods are stored in the facility's various vaults depending on transit times, which range from hours to days to months. "We have a bigger vault which stores goods in transit for up to a month. We are then able to send customers goods onto their next destination when they need it using Emirates' network.

For example, if someone has a gold deposit they want sent to India, there are four flights a day to Bombay," says Al Hashimi.

Each shipment arriving and leaving the building is x-rayed and approved by the internal customs team. Aiming to create a ‘one stop shop' for valuable handling goods, the facility even has its own Kimberly certification process. Operated by Business Avenue, the procedure certifies rough diamonds imported and exported from Dubai.

However, perhaps the most impressive attribute of Transguard's operation is the staggering number of cameras implemented across its network. A notable presence inside and around the outside of the facility, the cash handling centre alone possesses 180 cameras.

The true value of such a vast camera network is only captalised upon through effective integration and testament to this fact is Transguard's control centre. The clinical focus point of the entire operation, the room is a visionary display of technological prowess, combining all levels of security techniques under one centralised system.

Walking into the room feels like entering a James Bond film. A large display screen dominates one side of the room, while a number of trained Transguard employees study individual monitors. The system is still work in process, with the company yet to complete its goal of centralising all elements of its operations under one system.

"We have an advanced integrated system using all known forms of connectivity. Everything from the fibre optic wiring to the IP cameras is deployed with prudence. The control centre is a self contained area, with shower facilities, beds and food supplies, so in the event of an emergency, it is possible to stay inside for three days," reveals Al Hashimi.

We have all the necessary infrastructure to provide a ‘one stop shop’ for the handling of valuable airfreight. - Dr Abdulla Al Hashimi

A lot of thought and planning has been put into this area - it has been benchmarked to the best facilities and practices across the world. Transguard is always keeping an eye on the latest technology, but the key factor is integrating all the systems.

The security centre will eventually be able to monitor all its customers' warehouses and headquarters, with Al Hashimi revealing that this could even include locations as far away as Pakistan and New Zealand.

The scale of the project is somewhat exemplified by the fact that there are even cameras monitoring the Transguard employees operating the screens.

"In the past, customers have purposely damaged cargo, gone away and then tried to claim compensation. We do not even have to say anything to them, we always have the evidence on camera. It solves a lot of time and leaves nothing to chance," smiles Al Hashimi.

As the first facility in the Middle East to receive Technology Asset Protection Association (TAPA) certification it is perhaps not surprising to learn it is also a centre for security training in Dubai. Receiving official accreditation from the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), the department offers a diploma in security management, which to date has had more than 450 graduates.

The Centre of Aviation and Security Studies (CASS) is a new entity within the Emirates Group Security set up. It has a close partnership with other academic bodies, in particular the Cowan University of Western Australia, which allows staff the opportunity to further develop education and training.

"This creates an environment of learning within the organisation, which develops the security controls as a whole. Each member of staff is given a core training course and the choice of three additional courses," Al Hashimi says.

The facility's close relationship with Emirates Bank is also a sharp reminder of just how important such forms of training can be. A cash handling room is located within the building that has one of the biggest cash processing machines in the world, capable of counting 1800 bank notes per minute.

The high security room has a mixture of currencies and issues cash for banks, ATMs and exchanges. It has two access points - one for collection and one for delivery - and all money that enters undergoes a stringent handling process that is intricately monitored by security cameras.

Keeping a firm eye on the future, the facility has been designed to cope with the demands for handling high value shipments in Dubai for the next 15 years, a fact that should make the region's air cargo operators continue to feel in safe hands.

"Our business strategy is just two things - efficiency and innovation," summarises Al Hashimi.

"By efficiency, we mean benchmarking to industry best practice standards and developing a faster turn around pace. While innovation calls for continuous improvement of processes and also the products we offer," he adds.

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