Los Angeles Thieves Ransack Trains, Steal Cargo, Leave Mess

Recently TSI reported on the need for more security for containers in the transportation industry. This week, the Los Angeles Times reported on how bad the situation has gotten.

The extent of the problem was seen recently in that Times report. An image from the report shows torn plastic wrappers, cardboard boxes and packaging littering the rails from a wave of rail car theft that has been on the rise in recent months.

As a hub for the supply chain, Southern California has been especially hard hit. “Thieves are pilfering railroad cars in a crime that harks back to the days of horseback-riding bandits, but is fueled by a host of modern realities, including the rise of e-commerce,” the LA Times report says. “Union Pacific reported what it claimed was a 160% increase since December 2020 in thefts along the railroad tracks in L.A. County.”

The supply chain crisis has exacerbated the situation due to bottlenecks where containers sit for weeks at a time waiting for the next leg of their journey to their destinations. Union Pacific, which operates 3,200 miles of railway in California, says they are deploying more drones, are bringing in extra security and have enlisted the Los Angeles Police Department, California Highway Patrol and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to combat the thefts.

For more, see our story on container security by clicking here. (Image by Irfan Khan, Los Angeles Times).

Homeless Man Allegedly Pushed Woman to Death on NYC Train Tracks

A homeless man with a history of mental problems is accused of pushing Michelle Go onto the train tracks at a New York City station, where she was hit by a train Saturday, January 15. She was waiting for a southbound train when the attack occurred.

“This incident was unprovoked, and the victim does not appear to have had any interaction with the subject,” NYPD Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said. The accused attacker fled the scene but later turned himself into police.

Another woman at the same station told police that the man had also approached her and that she was fearful that he would push her onto the tracks. “He approaches her and he gets in her space. She gets very, very alarmed,” Jason Wilcox, the assistant police chief said. He was describing the encounter of the other woman. “She tries to move away from him and he gets close to her, and she feels that he was about to physically push her onto the train. As she’s walking away she witnesses the crime where he pushes our other victim in front of the train.”

Train with Baby Onboard Leaves Parents on Platform

The parents of a baby in Germany were left on the platform as the train sped away this past Sunday. The parents “watched in horror” according to bystanders as the train left with their child on board. The father placed the child, 11 months old, in a stroller on the train but was stood on the platform while waiting for his wife to join them. The doors closed suddenly, and the train began to leave Duesseldorf station. The family was eventually reunited, police said Monday.

The parents grabbed a taxi to try and catch the train at its next stop however passengers alerted the conductor about the baby and the train returned to Duesseldorf. The parents eventually returned to the Duesseldorf station and “the baby was handed back into the care of its grateful parents,” a police statement said.

Industry News

False Alarms at the UK’s Some National Infrastructure Sites set to be Reduced with New Technology

Experts in human, vehicle and object detection, Business Insight 3, has built on its sole UK partnership with Barcelona-headquartered technology provider, Davantis.

Working together, the two organizations have released a ground-breaking product which is set to drastically improve intruder detection while reducing the number of false alarms from security systems at some of the UK’s most important national infrastructure sites.

The product, called DFUSION, is exclusively available in the UK via Bi3 and uses AI to enhance Davantis’ proven machine learning algorithm. In fact, during tests it has been shown to reduce the number of false alarms by as much as 90%.

And now, the exciting technology has secured the prestigious mark of approval from the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI). This means that it can be used as the only form of perimeter detection for everything from private land to industrial sites and critical infrastructures.

To add to its merits, it has also received the UK police’s Secure by Design (SBD) Accreditation.

“This goes far beyond simple CCTV detection, which is why it will prove so crucial for the UK’s most critical sites such as Government and public utility locations. It is exceptionally precise, meaning it will improve overall performance and the accuracy of detections while reducing the rate of false alarms,” Glen Higson, Managing Director at Bi3, said.

“At the UK’s most nationally important sites, the potential consequences of missing a detection could be huge. Added to that, false alarms reduce operator efficiency and impacts time and resources. In these situations, nothing can be left to chance which is why we believe this product is going to be very well-received by both integrators and end-users alike.

“Plus, it might just be a matter of time before more public sites need to increase their security to the same levels as the Government and other key locations. For example, Martyn’s Law, a campaign by the mother of Martyn Hett who died in the Manchester Arena attacks, has led to the Government consulting on Protect Duty which puts much more obligation on venue owners to follow the advice they are given by counter terrorism experts and improve security.”

Specific benefits of the new technology include:
• As proprietary technology, it is compatible with all hardware brands and camera models
• It analyses the video stream constantly and instantly makes a decision, using a combined machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithm, on whether the movement is a person, vehicle or false alarm
• It can work in the most challenging of environments with unprecedented reduction in false activations
• It is powerful at detecting small moving objects which could be obscured at short, medium, and long distances
• Based on detection with fixed cameras, it can instruct the Smart PTZ feature enabling directional pan, tilt and zoom to the detection area so as to provide better identification of the intruder
Another big advantage of the new system is that it can be added to existing CCTV cameras and can be rented from Bi3, meaning costs are relatively low given the system’s sophistication.

For more information about the new product and its applications, please visit: https://www.davantis.com/en/dfusion or contact Bi3 on info@bi3.co.uk.

— ENDS —

Train Station Incident Leaves Good Samaritan Dead

Early on New Year’s Day a man at a New York City subway train station was attacked by gang members. The 38-year-old man was approached by members of a gang, one wielding a knife. During the attack, the man ended up on the train tracks below the platform. It was not clear how he ended up there, whether from being pushed or jumping.

A witness jumped to the tracks and assisted the man up but did not make it back up onto the platform before a train came. The man assisting was struck by the train. The assault victim was not hit by the train but was treated for a broken arm. The man assisting died.

Police released these images of the gang members involved and are looking for leads to there identities and whereabouts.

Hua Lamphong Train Station in Bangkok Closing

Hua Lamphong Station in Bangkok, Thailand is closing after 100 years of service.

The culturally iconic rail station, Hua Lamphong in the Thai hub city of Bangkok is closing down, having been replaced by a newer, more generic station. The station has been in use for 100 years but will be closing routes as they move to the new station.

Siriphong Preutthipan, deputy governor of the State Railway of Thailand, said in December the station will cease operating on Dec. 23, however the Transport Ministry has since said some train services will be retained to avoid disruption during the transition.

The station was designed by Italian architects and opened in 1916. Some are hoping the station will be preserved and while other local residents have begun to protest plans to turn it into a commercial building.

At its peak, the station averaged 60,000 passengers a day arriving and departing at the station, up until two years ago. The new station, Bang Sue Grand Station, is already in operation and has been drawing passengers away.

COVID Wreaks Havoc on Rail Service in U. S.

From coast to coast, COVID is disrupting train service in the United States. Crew shortages caused the Southern California regional passenger rail system, Metrolink, to cancel scheduled early-morning trains departing from a New Year’s Eve event in San Bernardino.

MTA suspended four of the lines that service the five boroughs. This suspension included the W line. Metropolitan Transportation Authority suspended three New York City subway lines last week. The suspensions are all due to understaffing. In spite of this situation, all stations remain open, according to MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan.

Even in the flyover states like Ohio, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) has experienced increased COVID-19 cases among employees. A Reuter’s report said staff shortages forced a reduction in the frequency of trains on its rapid lines last week. Instead of the normal frequency of trains every 15 to 30 minutes, the frequency has been bumped to 45 minutes to an hour, according to RTA spokesperson Linda Krecic.

Alstom Aims for the Most Sustainable Fleet of Trains in Irish Transport History

Alstom Aims for the Most Sustainable Fleet of Trains in Irish Transport History

Alstom has signed a ten-year framework agreement with Iarnród Éireann/Irish Rail (IE) for up to 750 new X’trapolis commuter rail cars for Ireland’s DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) network, with a firm initial order for 19 five-car trains, valued at €270 million, including a 15-year support services contract.

Henri Poupart-Lafarge, Alstom chairman and CEO, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan T.D., and Anne Graham, chief executive of the National Transport Authority, joined Iarnród Éireann’s chief executive, Jim Meade at IE’s Inchicore Works to formally sign the contract which will see the replacement and expansion of the DART fleet as part of the DART+ Program funded by the National Transport Authority under the National Development Plan 2021-2030.

Due to enter service in 2025, the initial order is for six five-car electric multiple units (EMUs) and thirteen five-car battery-electric multiple units (BEMUs), capable of journeys beyond 80 kilometers outside the electrified network under battery power, and the first modern battery fleet in Ireland. Energy stored in the battery system will be replenished via fast charging stations at chosen terminus locations and by recovering braking energy while the train is in motion. This capability will deliver emission-free connectivity and capacity ahead of electrification of the full DART+ network. Alstom will continue to support the DART fleet for a period of 15 years, providing technical support and spares, and deploying its HealthHub and TrainScanner technologies for predictive maintenance.

Each 82-meter train will have space for 550 passengers with wide, walk-though gangways, low-level floor, and an automatic retractable step to maximize accessibility. Other features include dedicated cycle and family areas; enhanced passenger features such as charging facilities for mobile phones, e-bikes and e-scooters; and advanced CCTV systems throughout the train, to enhance safety and security for customers and employees.

SNCF to Pay Woman €1 million After Train Door Accident

SNCF to Pay Woman €1 million After Train Door Accident

Recently SNCF, France’s national railway was ruled to pay more than €1 million to a passenger whose leg was amputated after a train door accident. According to the Paris Court of Appeal, SNCF was found at least 30% responsible for the accident, which occurred in 2008.

The legal battle lasted 13 years and resulted in “record” compensation, her lawyers said. State-owned SNCF was ordered to pay at least €1.13 million to the victim and about €600,000 to the health insurance of the Oise region. Although the SNCF said that she acted in a “reckless and dangerous” manner and had “deliberately left the train after the departure signal and when the doors were closed,” the judges ruled for the woman.

ENHANCING SHIPPING CONTAINER SECURITY

ENHANCING SHIPPING CONTAINER SECURITY

Shipping containers are the means by which the world moves its goods. “Maritime shipping is the backbone of world trade; it is estimated that more than 80 percent of all goods are carried by sea. In terms of value, global maritime container trade is estimated to account for around 60 percent of all seaborne trade,” according to the statistical information website Statista.com. Statista.com also predicts that the global shipping container market — which was worth $8.7 billion in 2019 — will “surpass the value of 12 billion U.S. dollars in 2027.”

Global Secure Shipping has a federally-funded Collaborative Agreement with DHS, DOD, UMaine, and Georgia Tech Research Institute to produce the Secure Hybrid Composite Intermodal Container (SHCIC) shown above. GSC image.
Global Secure Shipping has a federally-funded Collaborative Agreement with DHS, DOD, UMaine, and Georgia Tech Research Institute to produce the Secure Hybrid Composite Intermodal Container (SHCIC) shown above. GSC image.

With so much money riding on (and within) shipping containers, keeping their contents safe from theft is a top priority for shippers worldwide. This is why enhancing shipping container security is of prime importance — but how to do it?

To find out, TSI magazine picked the brains of three shipping container security experts.

Bill Schoenherr is vice president and general manager of NovaVision. It is a technology company that specializes in anti-tampering and anti-counterfeiting products such as hologram labels, tamper evident stickers, security tape, and mechanical security seals. “We conduct business globally and have over 5000 active customers each year,” said Schoenherr. “Our major customer groups include governments (U. S. A. federal, state, county, municipal and international), large international companies, retailers, and collectible companies.”

One of the most common theft-related security violations is having legitimate ‘security seals’ removed from shipping containers and replaced with poorly-made fakes, says NovaVision vice president and general manager Bill Schoenherr.
One of the most common theft-related security violations is having legitimate ‘security seals’ removed from shipping containers and replaced with poorly-made fakes, says NovaVision vice president and general manager Bill Schoenherr.

Greg Miner is Conexwest’s operations manager. “Conexwest is one of the leading container providers in the US,” he said. “We supply rental, and sale containers. We also specialize in the manufacturing of custom built containers.”

Robert Lindyberg is CEO of Global Secure Shipping (GSS). His company “provides comprehensive cargo security solutions developed by the University of Maine in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, (DHS) under the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Title III Defense Production Act, and industry leaders,” said Lindyberg. “GSS is the primary commercial partner in a federally-funded, multi-year Collaborative Agreement with DHS, DOD, UMaine, and Georgia Tech Research Institute to produce the Secure Hybrid Composite Intermodal Container (SHCIC) – also called the Global Secure Container.”

Here’s what they told us.

Threats to Shipping Containers

Given the global scope and multi-billion-dollar value of shipping container-based trade, it is not surprising that “the industry as a whole has many threats,” Miner told TSI magazine. “Take a construction site, for example. You have people who will either cut the container and enter through the side walls, cut through the lock rods on the front, or even go as far as trying to pull the lock rods off by attaching a chain to a truck and driving away.”

According to Schoenherr, the most common theft-related security violation experienced by NovaVision customers is having legitimate ‘security seals’ removed from their shipping containers and replaced with poorly-made fakes. “The criminals often do not bother to match the original serial number,” he said. In the number two position: “Security seals are attacked physically in an attempt to remove and reuse the original seal (no change in the serial number).”

The third most common security violation occurs when “container doors are physically removed at the hinges without disrupting the original security seals,” said Schoenherr. “After goods are removed, the hinges are reattached.” And finally, the number four most common crime is when “security seals are replaced with a counterfeit with matching serial numbers.”

All of these violations can occur when thieves open shipping containers, steal their contents, and then try to cover their tracks.

These threats to shipping container security were serious enough prior to the pandemic. Since then, “the shipping and supply chain disruption initiated by COVID-19 has resulted in major problems including bottlenecks at major ports and increased dwell times at unsecured railroad depots, increasing the risk of container break-ins, theft, and/or loss,” Lindyberg said. “In September 2021, the dwell time for containers at 11 major railroad depots was an average of 9.8 days, up from 5.9 days in February.” The longer a shipping container sits at an unsecured location, the more time thieves have to loot it.

But have these extended dwell times actually resulted in more thefts from shipping containers? On this point, opinions are mixed.

“Yes, especially for high value goods,” said Schoenherr. “The National Insurance Crime Bureau reports that there are over 8,500 thefts annually resulting in over $15 billion in losses in the US.”

“I don’t necessarily think they have been on the rise,” countered Miner. “I do believe that with the container gaining more popularity and being used in so many different ways, that there are more opportunities for these types of break-ins/theft.”

A Range of Security Solutions

Theoretically, it is possible to deter theft from shipping containers by ringing them with armed checkpoints and constant patrols conducted 24 hours a day. Practically, this level of security is not economically viable because of the exorbitant cost and logistical issues it would add to the shipping process – especially if the container’s contents are of relatively low value and therefore not attractive to most thieves.

This is why “there are lots of different levels of security” when it comes to shipping containers, Miner observed. At Conexwest, “we place lock boxes on all of our rental containers,” he said. “This acts as a secondary means of entry, and will deter most who try to enter the container through the lock rods.”

To protect more valuable contents, Conexwest customers can use an ISO Heavy Duty Lock on their container doors. “It is a lock that clamps onto the lock rods and has a keyed point of entry,” said Miner.

GSC Doors Closed

NovaVision takes a graduated approach to shipping container security. The tactics it recommends are designed to correspond to the value of the goods inside specific containers, based on a ‘risk assessment’ of their attractiveness to thieves and how secure their physical locations are. “For example, low value shipments in low-risk areas may only require a single security seal,” Schoenherr said, “while high value shipments may require multiple layers of security, especially in high-risk areas.”

GSC Doors Open Front Wide
Recent shipping and supply chain disruptions have resulted in major problems including bottlenecks at major ports and increased dwell times at unsecured railroad depots, increasing the risk of container break-ins, theft, and/or loss, says Robert Lindyberg, CEO of Global Secure Shipping. GSC images.

To aid TSI readers in choosing the right security defenses for their shipping containers, Bill Schoenherr compiled the following four options listed in order of increasing security and supported by explanatory photographs.

In the most low-risk scenarios, “the door latch/lock can be secured with a Bolt Seal or Cable Seal,” he said.

To add another layer of security in more risky situations “and to protect both container doors, also wrap the locking rods with another security seal,” said Schoenherr. “This can be accomplished by using a single cable seal with a 76” long cable, which can secure both the latch and wrap the locking rods. Some security seals include multiple independent locking mechanisms (a bolt and cable seal combined or two independent locks on one cable seal), which in addition to convenience of use, offer more security because the seals are unique and two cuts are required to gain access to the shipping container.”

Bolt Seal in Hasp
In low-risk scenarios, the container door latch/lock can be secured with a bolt seal like the one above or a cable seal like the one below. NovaVision images.

For situations where more protection is required, Bill Schoenherr recommended adding a ‘barrier seal’, which is a heavy-duty mechanism that shackles the two locking rods together. “This offers more security because it requires special cutting tools to remove,” he explained. “The removal process requires more time and the special removal tools (grinders, et cetera.) create more noise,” making it harder for the thieves to go undetected on site.

Cable Seal in Hasp

For an even higher level of shipping container security, “you can include ‘Cargo Door Seals’, which are extra-large (typically 3” x 12”) tamper evident labels,” said Schoenherr. “These cargo door seals can be used in conjunction with the other security seals and can be applied in other vulnerable areas such as across the opening seam of the two swing doors on the container, and over the hinges of each swing door on the container.”

If needed, place your shipping containers in securely fenced-in outside areas or inside locked warehouses, with CCTV camera coverage, motion detection and regular patrols. But again, this level of security is only justified if the contents are of high enough value (and easy enough to ‘fence’) to offset the extra cost.

Tracking and Tracing Solutions

In today’s connected world, shipping container security can be bolstered by tracking and tracing solutions.

Some of these solutions are simple, but they do the job. A case in point: At NovaVision “our seals use serial numbers and barcodes,” Schoenherr said. “Having the security protocol and discipline to track the serial number is very effective.”

Combination Bolt Cable Seal Hasp and Keepers
Shown here, a single cable seal with a long cable is used to secure the latch and wrap the locking rod for an extra layer of protection. NovaVision image.

At Conexwest, “there are GPS systems that exist for the rental fleet, plus tracking devices,” Miner said. Again, discipline and consistent adherence to proper procedures are required to make them work. “The biggest issue with the tracking devices is that there is a lot of data entry that corresponds with them,” he said. “If it isn’t handled correctly, it doesn’t do any good.”

On a more complex level, GSS and partner AKUA are providing “tracking and security solutions for intramodal shipping containers that are fully effective across all modes of shipping,” said Lindyberg.

For instance, “GSS’s Global Secure Container is CSC/TIR certified, and provides six-sided security against unauthorized door opening, or penetration of the walls, door, roof, or floor,” he said. “Coupled with the AKUATrack system, this solution provides the shipper with container location and security status, delivering full, end-to-end supply chain tracking and monitoring.”

Dealing with and Deterring Corrupt Employees

Even the most secure shipping container is at risk from corrupt employees. This is why shipping companies need to take steps to detect such employees within their ranks and deter them from taking illegal actions when opportunity arises.

Spotting potential thieves during the hiring process is a good way to keep them and shipping containers safe. However, “in addition to initial background checks, periodic background checks (every two or three years) for existing employees can highlight possible criminal activity, plus it sends a strong message to the employees,” Schoenherr explained. “If the background check includes financial information, the company can better understand if employees are experiencing financial hardships, which can be a motivator for temptation.”

Random drug testing can also highlight employees at risk, he added. “An employee on drugs may require an infusion of cash to maintain the habit and the company is a convenient target, especially if its shipping containers have contents of high value that are easy to resell.”

The AKUATrack system provides the shipper with full, end-to-end supply chain tracking and monitoring of the container location and security status. GSC image.
The AKUATrack system provides the shipper with full, end-to-end supply chain tracking and monitoring of the container location and security status. GSC image.

“While it is very difficult to thwart all corrupt employees, having a security protocol and discipline to track the serial numbers can discourage many ‘inside jobs’,” Schoenherr noted. “Periodic meetings with employees to discuss security measures and re-train on procedures can also be helpful.”

Advice to Readers

To conclude this look at enhancing shipping container security, TSI asked the experts to provide some last words of practical advice.

Greg Miner’s advice was short and to the point. “Place a lock box on your container and have multiple locks; one inside the lock box and one on the latches,” he said.

Bill Schoenherr’s advice was more detailed.

First, shipping container users should make periodic risk assessments and base their security protocols on those assessments. “The risk assessment should also include the full delivery cycle,” Schoenherr said. “With the current supply chain disruptions, shipping containers are at risk for longer periods of time — including extended storage at ports and warehouses.”

The level of risk should be determined based on the entire shipping process, he added. “We highly recommend assessing your risk based on supply chain issues, your company’s protocols and the product being moved through the supply chain. For instance, high value/high risk items like electronics and pharmaceuticals may require additional levels of security than a lower value cargo.”

Next, shipping container users should be open to employing all security options. “While a high security bolt seal is good at a minimum, there are better levels of security seals as previously stated that protect both doors of a container, cable seals and locking bar seals,” said Schoenherr. When the contents are sufficiently valuable, nothing is off the table.

For cross border shipments, NovaVision recommends using high security (H) seals, which have been certified to ISO17712. “A requirement for ISO 17712:2013 is that all ‘H’ seals must be independently tested at least every 24 months,” Schoenherr said. “Ask the supplier of your bolt, cable and barrier security seals to provide the manufacturer’s written verification that the seal was independently tested to comply with ISO 17712:2013 as a high security seal. To meet the ISO standard, the testing and certificate must be dated within 24 months of your purchase.” (Note: All of NovaVision’s high security cable seals, bolt seals and barrier seals are certified to ISO17712.)

“Customized seals offer more security than standard seals,” he added. “Changing up your security seals or layering different solutions is a good way to remain ahead of the counterfeiters.”

Finally, shipping container users should conduct random security audits to ensure compliance with their protocols, both with their own staff and third parties who handle containers on their behalf.

Taken as a whole, all of these options can enhance shipping container security. Granted, no security system is perfect, but taking steps to enhance your own can persuade thieves to look for easier targets elsewhere.