UNITED WE MUST STAND

UNITED WE MUST STAND

We all now have our own stories about where we were when it happened, just like those old enough can recall their exact whereabouts the day President Kennedy was assassinated. My plane from Halifax landed at Newark Airport almost exactly at 8:45 a.m. when the terrible events of Sept. 11 began unfolding. Olav Rakkenes of Atlantic Container line and Adolf Adrion of Hapag-Lloyd were on the same flight. All of us were coming from the Port Days event at Halifax, a city, ironically, that knows all about tragedy. It was there that the greatest man-made explosion prior to the atomic bomb at Hiroshima occurred in 1917, after a collision involving the munitions ship Mont Blanc. Two thousand people were killed that December day, nearly a square mile of the city was flattened, and nothing was the same again. I wasn't aware anything was wrong in New York City until I passed through immigration and was waiting downstairs at the baggage claim. The International Arrivals building at Newark was serene. Immigration and Customs officers went about their business as normal. White

smoke could be seen trailing away over New York harbor from Tower 1. Mrs. Rakkenes said a plane had hit the building. Then as I was watching this scene minutesafter 9 a.m., an incredible explosion engulfed Tower 2. This was the building where I had worked off and on for eight years with the JoC and have known intimately since I was a Wall Street messenger in my teens. It was too far to see that a plane had caused it, but the mixture of bright orange with black will live in my memory forever.

Other, far more horrifying stories of survivors and witnesses will emerge in the coming days and weeks. The most horrifying stories of all, of course, will never be told. Though many had moved away, the World Trade Center was still home to many trade-related tenants, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Many of us had friends caught up in the disaster, and those who didn't make it will be sorely missed and never forgotten.

It is impossible to know what the lasting impact will be so soon after a tragedy of this magnitude. But for those in the international trade and logistics community, the coming weeks will be incredibly important. Even though the initial focus in Washington is likely to be on tightening security for domestic flights, U.S. borders and entry points almost certainly will come under come intense scrutiny. Policies that in normal times would take years to develop and fund will be enacted perhaps in a matter of weeks. No idea will be dismissed out of hand. Proposals that in the past have gone nowhere, like creating a single border enforcement agency consisting of Coast Guard, Customs and Immigration functions, are the type that will be revived and considered seriously.

It is critical that shippers, ports, carriers and transportation intermediaries have a meaningful voice in this debate. They're the experts when it comes to goods moving in and out of the country. But for that to happen, things will have to change. In peacetime, it's OK for customs brokers and importers to challenge the enforcement tendencies of the Customs Service, or for seaports or dockworkers to seek balance and compromises in a port security bill. There is nothing unpatriotic about seeking an acceptable legislative outcome.

Now, those same interests run the risk of being seen as obstructionist, which in this political environment could mean that decisions affecting them are made on their behalf by people far less knowledgeable than they are. That is why, beginning immediately, trade interests need to ensure they're seen as proactive, full-fledged partners in the war on terrorism. And there is only one way to do that: be genuine in your patriotism and willingness to sacrifice for the national good. Maudlin? Unrealistic? Maybe, but unless every citizen and organization truly embraces the reality that national security and profits must be equal priorities, we run the risk of again becoming spoiled by our prosperity. And then we'd be more vulnerable than ever.

Peter Tirschwell is editor of JoC Week. He can be reached at (973) 848-7158, or via e-mail at ptirschwell

oc.com.