The issues of safety and security have preoccupied transport planners and managers for many years, it is only recently that physical security has become an overriding issue. Over this, an important nuance must be provided between criminal activities and terrorism. While both seek to exploit the security weaknesses of transportation, they do so for very different reasons. Terrorism is a symbolic activity seeking forms of destruction and disruption to coerce a political, ideological, or religious agenda. In this context, transportation is mostly a target. Criminal activities are seeking an economic return from illegal transactions such as drugs, weapons, piracy, and illegal immigration. In this context, transportation is mostly a vector for illicit transactions. Concerns were already being raised in the past. Still, the tragic events of 9/11 thrust the issue of physical security into the public domain as never before and set in motion responses that have re-shaped transportation in unforeseen ways. In addition, threats to health, such as the spread of pandemics, present significant challenges to transport planning and operations.
As locations where passengers and freight are assembled and dispersed, terminals have particularly been a focus of concern about security and safety. Because railway stations and airports are some of the most densely populated sites anywhere, crowd control and safety have been issues that have preoccupied managers for a long time. Access is monitored and controlled, and movements are channeled along pathways that provide safe access to and from platforms and gates. In the freight industry, security concerns have been directed into two areas: worker safety and theft. Traditionally, freight terminals have been dangerous workplaces. With heavy goods being moved around yards and loaded onto vehicles using large mobile machines or manually, accidents were systemic. Significant improvements have been made over the years, through worker education and better organization of operations, but freight terminals are still comparatively hazardous. The issue of theft has been one of the most severe problems confronting all types of freight terminals, especially where high-value goods are being handled. Docks have particularly been seen as places where organized crime has established control over local labor unions. Over the years, access to freight terminals has been increasingly restricted, and the deployment of security personnel has helped control thefts somewhat.
The most visible emerging form of security threat is cybersecurity to which transportation infrastructures and organizations are particularly vulnerable. The growth in the use of information technologies and their associated networks have opened new forms of vulnerability as control and management systems can be remotely accessed. This has resulted in complex interconnected corporate information networks that can be hacked and disrupted. In 2017, a malware named NotPetya was released from the hacked servers of a Ukrainian software firm servicing a management program used by some of the world’s largest corporations, causing an estimated USD 10 billion in damage. Transportation and logistics firms such as Maersk and TNT were severely disrupted. In some cases, terminals and distribution centers forced to cease operations because of inoperable computers.
The foundation of transport security includes several dimensions and potential measures:
- Particularly concerning the integrity of the passengers or cargo, the route, and the information systems (IT security) managing the transport chain.
- The set of procedures that can be implemented to maintain the integrity of the passengers or cargo, namely inspections, the security of facilities and personnel, as well as of the data and the supporting information systems.
The expected outcomes of these measures include:
- Reduced risk of travel or trade disruptions in response to security threats.
- Improved security against theft and diversion of cargo, with reductions in direct losses (cargo and sometimes the vehicle) and indirect costs (e.g. higher insurance premiums).
- Improved security against illegal transport of passengers and goods such as counterfeits, narcotics and weapons, and of persons.
- Improved reliance on the information systems supporting the complex transactions generated by transport activities.
- Reduced risk of evasion of duties and taxes.
- Increased confidence in the international trading system by current and potential shippers of goods.
- Improved screening process (cost and time) and simplified procedures.
Physical Security of Passengers
Airports have been the focus of security concerns for many decades. High-jacking aircraft came to the fore in the 1970s, when terrorist groups in the Middle East exploited the lack of security to commandeer planes for ransom and publicity. Refugees fleeing dictatorships also found taking over aircraft a possible route to freedom. In response, the airline industry and the international regulatory body, ICAO, established screening procedures for passengers and luggage. This process seems to have worked in the short run at least, with reductions in hijackings. However, terrorists changed their tactics by placing bombs in un-accompanied luggage and packages, as for example in the Air India crash off Ireland in 1985 and the Lockerbie, Scotland, the crash of Pan Am 103 in 1988. Still, air travel remains the safest transportation mode with fatalities steadily decreasing over the years.
The growth in passenger traffic and the development of the hub and spoke networks placed a great deal of strain on the security process. There were wide disparities in the effectiveness of passenger screening at different airports, and because passengers were being routed by hubs, the number of passengers in transit through the hub airports grew significantly. Concerns were being raised, but the costs of improving screening and the need to process ever-larger numbers of passengers and maintain flight schedules caused most carriers to oppose tighter security measures.
The situation was changed irrevocably by the events of September 11, 2001. The US government created the Department of Homeland Security, which in turn established a Transportation Security Authority (TSA) to oversee the imposition of strict new security measures on the industry. Security can now account for between 20 and 30% of the operating costs of an airport. Security involves many steps, from restricting access to airport facilities, fortifying cockpits, the setting of no-fly lists, to the more extensive security screening of passengers and their luggage. Screening includes restrictions on what can be personally carried in airplanes such as gels and liquids. For foreign nationals, inspection employs biometric identification, which at present involves checking fingerprints, but in the future may include retinal scans and facial pattern recognition.
Security in the freight industry has always been a major problem. Illegal immigrants, drug smuggling, custom duty evasion, piracy, and the deployment of sub-standard vessels (higher propensity to accidents) have been some of the most important concerns. In light of the emergence of global supply chains, the emphasis on freight transport security is gradually shifting into a more comprehensive but complex approach. However, as in the air passenger business, the events of 9/11 highlighted a new set of security issues. The scale and scope of these problems in freight are of an even greater magnitude. The less-regulated and greater international dimensions of the shipping industry, in particular, have made it vulnerable to security breaches.