First test of Operation Safe Commerce declared a success

Standing on Terminal 7 at the Port of Tacoma, U.S. Sen.Patty Murray (D-Washington) Thursday declared the test phase of Operation Safe Commerce a “resounding” success.

Operation Safe Commerce (OSC) is a federal program designed to test and evaluate practices, policies and procedures to improve the security of international containerized shipping. The first OSC test containers arrived at the Port of Tacoma in March 2004. Since then, hundreds of OSC containers have moved through the Puget Sound Load Center (Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma).

“That original shipment we celebrated five months ago, and the tests that followed, tracked shipments from their origination point – whether that was the factory floor or an agriculture field – to a distribution center right here in Washington state,” said Murray, who has supported funding for the program. “The products traveled by truck, train and ship along their journey, and we watched them every step of the way. We monitored and analyzed the security at the origination point, every subsequent transfer point, and on each mode of transportation until it reached the customer.”

Murray continued: “We found that each supply chain is unique and very dynamic. The players change often and market forces have a significant impact on how those players change. We found that technology alone is not the answer. Technology is just but one part of governmental policies, logistical procedures and the physical processes needed to move containers in the global economy.”

The objective of OSC is to create the knowledge base for possible future international standards for secure containerized shipment – from the overseas point of origin through the supply chain to the U.S. point of distribution. Murray outlined the key initial findings learned during the course of the nine Puget Sound Load Center test programs, including:

* Supply chains have points of vulnerability, both in the United States and overseas. Vulnerabilities were identified and assessed on each OSC test program. In many cases, vulnerabilities were not on U.S. shores or within U.S. jurisdiction. Addressing those vulnerabilities will require cooperative working relationships with overseas trading partners and governments to reduce risk.

* Technology is only part of the solution: There is a need to develop international standards, including shared policies, procedures and processes to ensure safe and economical flow of trade.

* Supply chains are complex, dynamic and unique: The same technologies cannot be universal in terms of geography, culture and economics. Shippers understand this, but many governments do not. This reinforces the need for international standards.

* Solutions must be globally integrated and developed from a system wide perspective: The entities that receive critical security information must be in close partnership with the logistics providers and shippers that are moving the goods.

* There must have multi-national acceptance of security in the supply chain and the global shippers are the glue that binds the supply together; hence they are and must continue to be our partners within OSC.

A proposed Round 2 for OSC, funded by $17 million in ODP grants, will “stress test” selected supply chains to prove supply chain security approaches. Details are not yet determined. When all testing is complete, the knowledge base created by OSC can be used to create international standards for containerized shipping.