TradeBeam aims for port security work

Transportation Security Administration

More than two years after a federal initiative was launched to improve the security of global cargo shipments to American ports, officials from a San Mateo, Calif.-based company announced their software was successful in pilot projects involving three trade lanes.

The pilot projects are part of the Homeland Security Department's Operation Safe Commerce, a collaborative effort between the federal government and maritime industry that uses technologies to ensure terrorists don't smuggle weapons of mass destruction and other devices onto containers without hindering global trade. Benefits to commercial shippers include prevention of theft and damage to goods.

While the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) oversees the program, it works in conjunction with the Customs and Border Protection agency, the Transportation Department and other agencies. The three ports involved in the pilots, include the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and Seattle and Tacoma. TSA distributed about $58 million for the projects.

Graham Napier, president and chief executive officer of TradeBeam Inc. — part of a team under Unisys Corp. — said their core software platform was used to link the security of physical goods with the backend systems allowing shippers, port security officials and government officials the ability to track, monitor, and report on the movement of containerized cargo.

He said the company's software, called Global Trade Management, was used in trade lanes from the Philippines to Los Angeles, Scotland to New York, and China to Long Beach. It took about 90 days to get it fully launched and then the pilot programs lasted for about four months, he said, adding that they were on time and on budget.

The software received data from radio frequency identification tags used to alert officials whether a container was tampered, sophisticated biosensor and radiation devices, and global positioning devices. The software also integrated financial, inventory, and trade documents and backend data.

Duncan Jackson, TradeBeam's vice president of marketing and business development, said shippers and port officials previously used paper and some elements of electronic data interchange for transactions. But he said officials then couldn't track goods at any one point, know if containers were opened, detect biological pathogens or radioactive materials, or check online to see what goods were in containers.

With the new wave of security elements, officials can now see a whole host of things, Napier said.

"You could quite easily see the breach between the security needs, i.e., was the container opened? From the government perspective did terrorists put something in it? From the commercial perspective the same technology says is someone stealing something?" he said.

Napier said there is a demonstrable return on investment by implementing such security technologies and systems. He said it's up to the commercial sector to recognize this and adopt them.

"The role of the government is obviously is try to build awareness, create the standards and configuration of solutions. I don't believe it's the role of government to fully bear the brunt of this," he said.

He said the federal government is currently evaluating all the projects. He said one recommendation is to create a center of excellence for security trade initiatives to promote best practices nationwide.

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