BSI Supply Chain Solutions Response to Explosives Detected within US Destined Parcel Shipments

Press release - Reston, VA - November 1, 2010

The suspicious packages found in cargo shipments in the United Kingdom and Dubai on October 29th led to a major disruption of cargo networks around the world.  Cargo airplanes and trucks in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York were halted and searched for additional packages that may have been linked to what initially appears to be a plot carried out by a known terrorist group operating in Yemen.  These events have captured the attention of the world as global media outlets ran “Cargo Chaos” headlines with images of cargo planes sitting idle on airport runways.   The complexity of the international supply chain and interdependencies of commercial passenger and dedicated cargo aircraft was further illustrated when a passenger aircraft which was carrying cargo was escorted by U.S. military aircraft into a New York airport.  

While the premise of commercial cargo shipments being disrupted by terrorist networks was highlighted by today’s events, “Supply Chain Terrorism” is not new threat.  BSI has determined that since 2004, 600 attacks targeting the supply chain have occurred which equate to one attack every four days.  While the Modus Operandi of these attacks vary from today’s events, data indicates Supply Chain Terrorism is becoming increasingly attractive to terrorist organizations.  While attacks targeting components of the supply chain disrupt trade, endanger people and pose a serious economic threat, the supply chain is also used by terrorist organizations to fund their activities.  Terrorist organizations are indirectly linked to sea piracy, and directly linked to illicit drug trade and the movement and security of illicit drugs transiting between countries. 

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s C-TPAT risk based supplier assessment requirement and concept of “securing at the source” is essential to early identification of potential supply chain risks.   A thorough understanding of risk to include: supply chain terrorism, anti-Western terrorism, cargo disruption exposure and transportation modality tampering rates are essential when determining an importer’s at risk trade-lanes.    The key to early detection of supply chain exposures remains implementing risk-based assessments and avoiding a “compliance equals risk” approach to determining risk.  

As the cargo industry is in the midst its busiest season of the year, we can only speculate that the insertion of potential explosive devices in a parcel shipment served as a test of our origin and transshipment trading partner’s detection capabilities, an attempt to slow and disrupt trade or as a vehicle of attack.   Dan Purtell, BSI’s Senior Vice President for Supply Chain Solutions stated “regardless of motive, this incident highlights the fragility of the supply chain, the increased targeting by terrorist organizations and the importance of understanding the risks presented by suppliers and supply chain partners.”