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Thu 21 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Securing the supply chain: who is accountable?

The 9-11 incident in 2001 alerted the world to serious holes in security within global transport networks.

The 9-11 incident in 2001 alerted the world to serious holes in security within global transport networks. Even the strict regulations implemented by governments to secure global trade following the fateful event, failed to prevent two further incidents demonstrating a critical breach in security.

The first occurred in September 2003, when a man shipped himself from New York to Texas in a crate, in collusion with the shipping company's employees. The other and subsequent was in September 2004, when a cardboard roll filled with a flammable substance believed to be thermite was found in a jet's cargo hold at Sydney Airport.

Although both incidents vary in their gravity, they confirm that, ultimately, securing the supply chain is not solely the government's responsibility. All players spanning the supply chain should participate in securing their cargo.

Unfortunately, many logistics providers do not yet understand their role in keeping freight secure. Most industry players are not convinced that supply chain security should be one of their primary concerns. They must realise that when comprehensive cargo security measures are properly engineered, it adds value to a company and increases customer confidence.

Transport providers can decide how much value they are capable of adding to a supply chain in the form of services such as warehousing, packing, quality control, inventory management and distribution. However, in the case of additional security, there are no options. It is imperative for airfreight and logistics providers to embrace security measures as a means to improving customer service.

The industry itself must develop mechanisms to guarantee the competence of transport providers, to ensure they are accountable and provide a greater sense of security to their customers and supply chain partners. Asides, I believe the culture of security goes hand in hand with quality and innovation. This best occurs when practitioners interact with academics, experts, and representatives of international governmental and non-governmental organisations.

In 2007, there was evidence in Dubai of industry players rallying for further training. We witnessed the National Association of Freight and Logistics (NAFL) make a formal appeal to the Department of Economic Development to jointly establish a system to ensure competency, accountability and professional liability insurance for the freight forwarding and transport logistics industry.

In the latter part of 2007, Dubai hosted the FIATA World Congress, which aptly highlighted the city's progress in terms of transport logistics and emphasised Dubai's status as one of the important players in logistics worldwide.

Government involvement is most vital in the implementation and execution of legislation that will empower and develop professional freight logistics providers to cultivate the cultures of quality, security, and innovation in the industry.

Fortunately for industry players in this part of the world, the government of Dubai understands that logistics is one of the cornerstones in the nation's vision of growth and provides support like no other government that I have seen so far in my 30 odd years as a freight forwarder.

Cargo security has clearly become an undisputed part of international trade and the sooner freight logistics providers apply quality and innovation within their operations, the faster it will be for practitioners to identify security loopholes. This will create not only a seamless supply chain, but also a secure one.

Issa Baluch is chairman and CEO of Swift Freight International and past president of FIATA. He is the author of Transport Logistics, Past, Present and Predictions (www.transportlogistics.com)

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