The Geography of Transport Systems
Jean-Paul Rodrigue (2013), New York: Routledge, 416 pages.
ISBN 978-0-415-82254-1
Transport Safety and Security
Author: Dr. Brian Slack and Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue
1. A New Context in Transport Security
While issues of safety and security have been before transport planners and managers for many years, it is only recently that physical security has become an over-riding issue. Over this, an important nuance must be provided between criminal activities and terrorism. While both seek to exploit the security weaknesses of transportation, they do so for very different reasons. Terrorism is at start a symbolic activity seeking forms of destruction and disruption to coerce a political or religious agenda. In this context, transportation is mostly a target. Criminal activities are seeking an economic return from illegal transactions such as drugs, weapons, piracy and illegal immigration. In this context, transportation is mostly a vector for illegal transactions. Concerns were already being raised in the past, but the tragic events of 9/11 thrust the issue of physical security into public domain as never before and set in motion responses that have re-shaped transportation in unforeseen ways. In addition, threats to health, such as the spread of pandemics, present significant challenges to transport planning and operations. Because of the nature of transport systems, safety and security issue concerns the modes and the terminals. Each involves a different set of issues.
As locations where passengers and freight are assembled and dispersed, terminals have particularly been a focus of concern about security and safety. Because railway stations and airports are some of the most densely populated sites anywhere, crowd control and safety have been issues that have preoccupied managers for a long time. Access is monitored and controlled, and movements are channeled along pathways that provide safe access to and from platforms and gates. In the freight industry security concerns have been directed in two areas: worker safety and theft. Traditionally, freight terminals have been dangerous work places. With heavy goods being moved around yards and loaded onto vehicles using large mobile machines or manually, accidents were systemic. Significant improvements have been made over the years, through worker education and better organization of operations, but freight terminals are still comparatively hazardous. The issue of thefts has been one of the most severe problems confronting all types of freight terminals, especially where high value goods are being handled. Docks in particular, have been seen as places where organized crime has established control over local labor unions. Over the years, access to freight terminals has been increasingly restricted, and the deployment of security personnel has helped control thefts somewhat.
In light of the emergence of global supply chains the emphasis in freight transport security is gradually shifting into a more comprehensive but complex approach including several dimensions and potential measures:
  • Dimensions. Particularly concern the integrity of the cargo, the route and the information systems managing the supply chain.
  • Measures. The set of procedures that can be implemented to maintain the integrity of the cargo, namely inspections, the security of facilities and personnel as well as of the data.
The expected outcomes of these measures include:
  • Reduced risk of disruptions of trade in response to security threats.
  • Improved security against theft and diversion of cargo, with reductions in direct losses (cargo and sometime the vehicle) and indirect costs (e.g. higher insurance premiums).
  • Improved security against illegal transport of goods such counterfeits, narcotics and weapons, and of persons.
  • Reduced risk of evasion of duties and taxes.
  • Increased confidence in the international trading system by current and potential shippers of goods.
  • Improved screening process (cost and time) and simplified procedures.
Still, in spite of the qualitative benefits, the setting and implementation of security measures come at a cost that must be assumed by the shippers and eventually by the consumers. It has been estimated that an increase of 1% in the costs of trading internationally would cause a decrease in trade flows of in the range of 2 to 3%. Security based measures could increase total costs between 1% and 3%. Additionally, the impacts are not uniformly assumed as developing countries, particularly export-oriented economies, tend to have higher transport costs. Security measures can affect them in a greater fashion.
2. Physical Security of Passengers
Airports have been the focus of security concerns for many decades. High-jacking aircraft came to the fore in the 1970s, when terrorist groups in the Middle East exploited the lack of security to commandeer planes for ransom and publicity. Refugees fleeing dictatorships also found taking over aircraft a possible route to freedom. In response, the airline industry and the international regulatory body, ICAO, established screening procedures for passengers and bags. This process seems to have worked in the short run at least, with reductions in hijackings, although terrorists changed their tactics by placing bombs in un-accompanied luggage and packages, as for example in the Air India crash off Ireland in 1985 and the Lockerbie, Scotland, crash of Pan Am 103 in 1988.
The growth in passenger traffic and the development of hub and spoke networks placed a great deal of strain on the security process. There were wide disparities in the effectiveness of passenger screening at different airports, and because passengers were being routed by hubs, the numbers of passengers in transit through the hub airports grew significantly. Concerns were being raised by some security experts, but the costs of improving screening and the need to process ever larger numbers of passengers and maintain flight schedules caused most carriers to oppose tighter security measures.
The situation was changed irrevocably by the events of September 11, 2001. The US government created the Department of Homeland Security which in turn established a Transportation Security Authority (TSA) to oversee the imposition of strict new security measures on the industry. Security involves many steps, from restricting access to airport facilities, fortifying cockpits, the setting of no fly lists, to the more extensive security screening of passengers. Screening now involves more rigorous inspections of passengers and their baggage at airports, including restrictions on what can be personally carried in airplanes such as gels and liquids. For foreign nationals, inspection employs biometric identification, which at present involves checking fingerprints, but in the future may include retinal scans and facial pattern recognition. A new system, the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS II) was introduced. It required more personal information from travelers when they book their flights, which is used to provide a risk assessment of each passenger. Passengers considered as high risk were further screened. However, this program was cancelled in 2004, mostly because it created too many false positives, and replaced by the Secure Flight program working under similar principles but entirely managed by the TSA. From 2009, all the flights originating, bound to or flying over the United States had their list of passengers cross-referenced by a central no-fly list managed by the TSA.
The imposition of these measures has come at a considerable cost, which were estimated to be more than $7.4 billion annually by IATA. A significant factor has been the screening of passengers with the hiring and training of a workforce, the purchase of improved screening machines and the re-designing of airport security procedures. Further, aircraft design and operations have been changed, including the introduction of reinforced cabin doors. These measures also had an impact on passenger throughputs, with an estimated 5% decline attributed to security measures. Clearing security has become the most important source of delays in the passenger boarding process. Passengers are now expected to arrive 2 hours before departure at the terminal in order to clear security.
Security issues have had a negative effect on the air transport industry as costs increased with delays and inconveniences to passengers increasing as well. However, these delays and inconveniences are now considered part of contemporary air travel with passengers accustomed to security requirements. The burden security and custom procedures impose at major ports of entry have also incited the expansion of customs pre-clearance programs.
3. Freight Security
Security in the freight industry has always been a major problem. Illegal immigrants, drug smuggling, custom duty evasion, piracy, and the deployment of sub-standard vessels (higher propensity to accidents) have been some of the most important concerns. However, as in the air passenger business, the events of 9/11 highlighted a new set of security issues. The scale and scope of these problems in freight is of an even greater magnitude. The less regulated and greater international dimensions of the shipping industry in particular have made it a vulnerable to security breaches. The large number of ports, the vast fleet of global shipping and the range of products carried in vessels, and the difficulty of detection has made the issue of security in shipping an extremely difficult one to address. For ports, vulnerabilities (unauthorized access to cargo and facilities) can both be exploited from the land side as well as on the maritime side. The container, which has greatly facilitated globalization, makes it extremely difficult to identify illicit and/or dangerous cargoes. In the absence of scanners that can scan the entire box, manual inspection becomes a time consuming and virtually impossible task considering the large volumes involved. Hubbing compounds the problem, as large numbers of containers are required to be handled with minimum delays and inconvenience.
In the US the response was to enact the Maritime Transportation and Security Act in 2002. The basic elements of this legislation were adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in December 2002 as the International Ship and Port Security code (ISPS). There are three important features of these interventions:
  • First, is the requirement of an Automated Identity System (AIS) for all vessels between 300 and 50,000 dwt. AIS requires vessels to have a permanently marked and visible identity number, and there must be a record maintained of its flag, port of registry and address of the registered owner.
  • Second, each port must undertake a security assessment. This involves an assessment of its assets and facilities and an assessment of the effects of damages that might be caused. The port must then evaluate the risks, and identify its weaknesses to its physical security, communication systems, utilities etc.
  • Third, is that all cargoes destined for the US must receive customs clearance prior to the departure of the ship. In addition, it is proposed that biometric identification for seafarers to be implemented and that national databases of sailors to be maintained.
The ISPS code is being implemented in ports around the world. Without certification, a port would have difficulty in trading with the US. Security is thus becoming a factor in a port’s competitiveness. The need to comply with ISPS has become an urgent issue in ports large and small around the world. The costs of securing sites, of undertaking risk assessments, and of monitoring ships all represent an additional cost of doing business, without any commercial return. US ports have been able to tap funding from the Department of Homeland Security, but foreign ports have to comply or risk the loss of business. In 2008, legislation in the US required that all containers being shipped to the US to undergo screening. Foreign ports were expected to purchase very expensive gamma-ray and x-ray scanners, and undertake screening of all US-bound containers, regardless of the degree of security threat. This is a further financial and operational complications foreign ports have to contend with.
Like its passenger counterpart, the airline freight industry is facing stringent security requirements. Since 2010, a TSA regulation requires the screening of all cargo carried by air within the United States or internationally and this before being loaded. The Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP) force airlines, freight forwarders and shippers to assume the costs of these security measures in an attempt to establish a secure air freight transport chain. The measure imposed additional costs, delays and disruptions, undermining the operational effectiveness of air cargo. Still, the air freight industry has adapted to these measures. Security has become an additional element in determining competitive advantage.