by Mette Jordan
The latest regulations surrounding security seals
Cargo security is getting more attention from more people than ever before. Better cargo security is an obvious way to cut costs for shippers and carriers and it is a critical layer in the combined efforts to prevent terrorism.
Governments, Customs organizations and industry are working together to standardize minimum criteria for sealing and scanning of national and international shipments. The ultimate goal is to achieve a secure and transparent supply chain where all loads from manufacturer to end-user are known and accounted for in real time. We are very far from getting there, but new regulations are being put in place to take the first steps.
The first international standard for security seals will soon be in effect. ISO/DIS 17712 is currently undergoing the last review but it is already used as the basis for most seal requirements around the world. ISO 17712 will categorize seals according to their physical performance and most cargo security people are already familiar with High Security Seals – the strongest of the 3 categories defined by 4 tests specified in the drafted standard. High Security Seals have to be used on all shipping containers, trailers, tanker trucks and rail cars when entering the US.
ISO/DIS 17712 also includes a normative Annex A that describes the security-related responsibilities of seal manufacturers. Basically, it contains a list of Best Practices any seal manufacturer has to meet in order to supply ISO/DIS 17712 compliant seals. This means it is no longer enough for a seal to meet the strength requirements of the H category. The seal manufacturer also has to meet the requirements stated in Annex A: Best Practices – otherwise the seal is no longer considered a High Security Seal. All seal users should therefore check with their current supplier and ask for proof of both the seals’ strength category AND the manufacturer’s adherence to Annex A.
C-TPAT currently focuses on imports to the US only but it will include export conveyances to the rest of the world within the next couple of years. This means that all incoming as well as outgoing containers must be sealed with a category H seal (High Security Seal). Another important part of C-TPAT is that it pushes the requirement of sealing back to the origin of the product. Making it easier to determine where in the supply chain a breach of security has happened.
PIP – Canada’s “Partners in Protection” program has been designed to tighten security between Canada and the US. It states that all border crossings to and from Canada by containers, trucks, rail cars, tanker truck etc. must be secured by an ISO 17712 High Security Seal.
Mexico is currently reviewing the existing seal approval, which does not comply with ISO/DIS 17712 category H. A new pilot initiative in Mexico is modeled after the World Customs Organizations program (which does call for High Security Seals) and it is expected that the new program will close the gap to the US requirements significantly.
C-TPAT High Security Cable Seals
Beyond the standards
That a seal meets the relevant standard is only the first step to getting the right seal. There are differences in price, quality and tamper evident features, which must be kept in mind when evaluating seals. It is great that standards are finally being implemented in the security seal industry but they are primarily looking at the seals’ physical strength and manufacturers’ practices. There is no minimum requirement of tamper evidence and security features in general. This means that not all ISO/DIS 17712 compliant High Security Seals are giving you the same level of security – they just meet the same strength requirements. Some seals can be tampered without much evidence because they haven’t been designed right or made from materials that make tampering more obvious.
Before deciding on what seal to buy it is therefore important to acknowledge why seals are being used in the first place. The cheapest seal in the required category will do if it is solely to comply with the regulations. But if the seals are used to add a layer of security and to protect assets it is necessary to look at what value the seal is delivering – not just how much it costs. Also, even though there is a general correlation between price and quality, the same connection is not true for price and tamper evidence. Many of the more expensive seals on the market do not have more tamper evident features than the cheapest seals on the market. They may be strong – but not necessarily making it easier for the users to detect if the seals have been tampered, which means they do not bring more value to the users.
Simulock - Indicative Plastic Ring Seal
Several different seals should be tested in order to find the best seal for the application and for the security procedures that the users have implemented to detect signs of tampering. And alternative seals should be evaluated and considered from time to time to stay on top of the development. The “bad guys” don’t rest, so neither should the efforts to keep them at bay.
Signs of the time
Shippers, carriers and insurance companies are looking at more ways to cut costs. And one of the obvious ways to maximize the bottom line is to protect your assets. In bad times, this becomes even more critical because more people are tempted to steal. So, it is no coincidence that cargo crime is on the rise even in States usually considered safe corridors.
NOW is the right time to start looking for a seal solution – and evaluate seals with more tamper evident features that bring better value. NOW is always the best time to increase security and protect your assets.
Mega Fortris is a specialized manufacturer of tamper evident security seals, security tapes, labels and security bags. Our designs and production methods are constantly evaluated and improved to make sure our customers receive the next generation of security products. Mega Fortris is working closely with Transport Security, Inc. to service the transportation industry with high value security products. View Security Seals
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