Cargo security - both in terms of theft prevention and terrorism concerns - remains a key issue in shipping and commerce, particularly following the events of Sept. 11. The National Cargo Security Council is an association of cargo transportation and security professionals from the entire spectrum of cargo security: air, truck, rail, maritime and intermodal. The council's objectives include improving cargo-transportation security through voluntary government and industry efforts and serving as a central information clearinghouse to prevent cargo-related crimes. Joe M. Baker Jr. has been executive director of the council since 1999.
Q. What are some of the main issues the NCSC is working on?
A. We are interested in getting some legislation that would improve the sentencing guidelines for cargo theft. Cargo theft doesn't bring the same jail terms it should bring for the value of items that are stolen. For example, a kilo of silicon chips is worth about the same as a kilo of cocaine, but the sentencing guidelines are quite different for both. Our concern is that criminals are looking at cargo because the risks aren't as great.
Q. What else?
A. U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., has introduced legislation concerning cargo theft that we support, HR 3563. Also, we'd like to see background checks for drivers; we'd like to see it as a federal law. We'd also like to see some of the port security expanded to the service industry outside of the ports.
Q. What kind of trends are you seeing in cargo theft?
A. The organized crooks are going after high-value stuff. They know where the high-value things are, where the high-tech items are, where the tobacco products are. The items that aren't fenced immediately often end up on online auction sites or at flea markets.
Q. What kind of concerns do you have about terrorism and cargo?
A. If you can steal something out of a container, you can put something in it, such as a dirty bomb or other explosives. Containers are not there just to be robbed; they can be violated and have something bad put in them.
Q. What is the National Cargo Security Council doing to help prevent that kind of activity?
A. The NCSC is working with several other organizations, about 10 in all, in the logistics field to establish an Information Sharing and Analysis Center at the Transportation Security Administration's facility in Herndon, Va., to take care of the entire intermodal aspect. These centers, which are supported by the federal government, serve as a means to monitor activity in an industry, then notify members and law enforcement about suspicious activity, such as a missing tanker truck. It's an opportunity for all this information to come to one spot and let us look for anomalies.
Q. What is the NCSC's role in establishing this new analysis center?
A. We're sort of the catalyst because we cover all fields of transportation. ISACs are independent, but they are underwritten by the federal government. We're organizing it through the TSA, but it's not something that's going to happen overnight. We've had several meetings already and are planning more.
Q. What are some other aspects of the analysis center?
A. There are eight regional cargo councils. Each of them would coordinate their information through the analysis center. We have not yet finalized how to pay for operating the center. It would cost between $2 million and $3 million. We're working on it like mad.