In Safe Hands: A behind-the-scenes look at cargo security audits

Elad Gadot doesn’t smoke, but he stood drinking coffee from a paper cup outside the security corridor – the last place for warehouse workers to grab a smoke before heading back inside. All around him, old ladies were doing booming business hawking cigarettes and drinks to the workers at Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport (MEX), who had a few minutes to kill before their shifts started, and Gadot listened in to the casual conversations.

Why, with security technology more advanced than ever, was Gadot still listening in on idle chatter between truck drivers and forklift operators? “It’s one of the best ways to really find out what’s happening on the warehouse floor,” he said. “People tend to talk during smoke breaks.”

This winter, he spent a lot of time in Mexico City, conducting two security validations and navigating a complex web of technological and human factors to ensure that his clients are employing the most stringent security protocols.

Gadot – no relation to the actress who played Wonder Woman – founded security firm Corposec after running security for DHL Express Austria because “the certification process is the best way for companies to achieve a high level of security compliance.” That mission brought him to MEX to conduct ACC3 security validations for Israeli cargo airline CAL Cargo, and RA3 validation for its warehouse agent, Borderless Air Cargo, one of the largest cargo handlers at the airport (see Definitions Sidebar).

CAL Cargo decided to pursue ACC3 verification for its Mexico operation in order to be able to fly between Mexico and Europe. “We need the flexibility to route flights through Europe,” explained Avi Segev, director of ground operations and security at CAL Cargo Airlines. “We decided to have this station validated, and that means bringing our station and service provider here up to our level of security and making sure that all security standards are documented and implemented.”

With technology surging forward, a spate of hacking incidents and other high-tech crimes have promoted a new round of introspection. Shippers want to know if their data, inventory and reputations are still secure. And now that more cargo than ever is flying in widebody bellies, companies that handle cargo are under increased pressure to ensure that their cargo is properly screened because lives are at risk, and terrorist organizations are employing increasingly sophisticated methods.

For logistics companies, their very existence is premised on expertise and trustworthiness. Shippers trust them with their freight because they believe their product is in safe hands. But how can they be sure? Security audits like these can help answer the question.

Security audits are also about more than just preventing terrorism. Another threat that has been growing in recent months is cargo theft. A few months back, Gadot spoke via phone to a major logistics company that was missing a pallet of high-value electronics from its warehouse in London Heathrow. “Nobody wants to invest in security until its too late,” Gadot lamented.

Weeks later, he told Air Cargo World, those same electronics started showing up on the shelves of legitimate retailers. Whoever was behind the heist knew what they were doing, and they had inside connections. At airports, criminals tend to target handling facilities, often with airside access – the most secure parts of airports. Using deception as their modus operandi, these insider criminals steal hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of cargo from under the noses of airfreight companies.

It’s not just corporations, said Jason Breakwell, vice chairman of the Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA) program for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. There’s a national disparity in reporting.

“We’d like to get more airlines on board, so that we know where their priorities lie,” he said. In January, TAPA warned of “an ominous start to 2018,” as losses rose 18.5 percent, year-over-year, for the month across the EMEA region. During the month, some of the more brazen heists included two trailers loaded with 44 tonnes of chocolate, worth €400,000, stolen in the German town of Freiburg, Baden-Wurttemberg, and €567,830 worth of handbags swiped in from an airport in Milton Keynes, U.K.

That same data is a powerful motivator. TAPA is pushing for more visibility into this area of security, and then using its findings to thwart criminals in high-crime areas.

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