Cracking the cargo conundrum
By Ben Vogel and Barry Cross
With security agencies on high alert following the 2 May killing of Osama bin Laden by US special forces in Pakistan, it is conceivable that the air cargo supply chain will come under renewed attack from Islamist terror groups intent on revenge.
Recent history underlines the threat to air cargo. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for sending two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from Yemen to Chicago using international courier companies in October 2010, which were intercepted in the in the UK and the United Arab Emirates. The devices concealed inside printer ink cartridges contained 300-400 g of PETN.
Cargo-handling companies are calling for improved container-screening systems and technology developers are working to meet this demand.
Spain-based joint venture SEDET, for example, hopes to introduce a new explosives vapour detection (EVD) system in 2011. SEDET comprises Morpho, small Spanish technology company SEADM and the CARTIF research centre. Chief Executive Officer Gonzalo Fernández de la Mora told Jane's that the Air Cargo Explosive Screener (ACES) system is one million-times more sensitive than a standard ion mobility spectrometer, and will meet European Civil Aviation Committee (ECAC) explosives-detection specifications. ACES remained under certification testing at the time of writing. The system is able to easily detect 50 g of explosive concealed in a fully loaded truck or an air cargo container, with blind tests already having successfully identified six substances as well as various compounds.
"Our technology," de la Mora stressed, "will find 0.1 of a picogram of explosive in a sample of air. In fact, the sensitivity is so good that we are offering the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack the size of an average football stadium."280 of 2053 words
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