Transportation

  • Heavier oil train traffic in western U.S. causes safety worries

    In May, following extensive debate regarding security concerns, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx ordered railroads to share oil train shipment information with states, in order better to inform first responders should an accident occur. In the first quarter of 2014 alone, there were 110,000 carloads of oil. Each train can carry three million gallons of oil.

  • Details of oil shipments by rail are not security sensitive and should be released: DOT

    The boom in U.S. oil shipments by rail is largely due to the growing production of shale oil from the Bakken fields in North Dakota and Montana, but also due to the slow construction of new oil pipelines. U.S. freight railroads are estimated to have carried 434,000 carloads of crude oil in 2013, compared to 9,500 carloads in 2008. In 2014, 650,000 carloads of crude oil are expected to be carried. So far U.S. crude oil shipments by rail have reached a record 110,000 carloads in the first quarter of 2014. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx issued an order in May for railroads to provide states with details on routing and oil-train volumes. Last week, U.S. Department of Transportationofficials affirmed that details about volatile oil train shipments are not sensitive security information, thereby allowing states to release such information to the public.

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  • IT security at U.S. ports weak: GAO

    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that maritime security policies and plans at three high-risk U.S. ports do not effectively address how to assess, manage, and respond to cybersecurity threats. While all three ports have strategies to deal with physical security, there were few policies that specifically addressed cybersecurity.

  • Feds, rail operators, Washington State embroiled in crude oil shipment disclosure dispute

    Last month the U.S. Department of Transportation(DOT) ordered rail carriers with trains carrying crude oil to notify state officials in the states through which the trains pass about the volume, schedule, and routes of these trains. The amount of crude oil transported by trains has grown dramatically – from 6,000 carloads in 2005 to more than 400,000 carloads in 2013. The increase in the volume of crude oil shipping has been accompanied by a sharp rise in the number of accidents and derailments. DOT’s order was meant to allow states’ first responders to be prepared, but the railways treat shipping information as “security sensitive” and refuse to share it with states’ officials unless the information is distributed to emergency response groups for planning purposes only. Washington State says that state laws require that such information be made public.

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  • China implements airport-like security checks at crowded train stations

    China’s terrorism problem is worsening as a growing Uighur-led Islamist militancy has emerged in response to the Chinese government’s tough stance on ethnic problems in the Uighur homeland of Xinjiang in west China. In response to the growing security risks, Beijing passengers are now subject to security checks before their train commute.

  • U.K. forwarders “not surprised” by U.S. climb-down on 100 percent container scanning

    One leader of the international freight industry says it was “hardly surprising” to hear the recent news that the United States has delayed new rules requiring all cargo containers entering the United States to be security scanned prior to departure from overseas for two more years, amid questions over whether this is the best way to protect U.S. ports.

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  • Airports resist bolstering perimeter security because of cost

    Last month’s security breach at Mineta San Jose Airport, in which a teenager entered the airfield and hid in the wheel well of a Maui-bound flight, has highlighted concerns about the security of airport perimeters. Perimeter intrusions are common at airports, but airports resist pressures to improve perimeter protection because of the costs involved. Experts note that if we were to string all of the U.S. airport perimeters together, we would approach the length of the U.S. border with Mexico and security expenditures approaching a billion dollars. These experts say that airports are not likely to invest heavily in perimeter security until a serious disaster due to lax perimeter security occurs. “Show me a body count, and we’ll build a fence,” said one airport administrator.

  • Port security technologies demonstrated in Gothenburg, Sweden

    FOI, the Swedish Defense Research Agency, conducted a demonstration in Gothenburg of technology designed to improve the security of ports around the world. One of the reasons for the research into countering intrusion is that many ports find that they lack good and affordable tools for seaward surveillance, and so find it difficult to guard against terrorist attack and organized crime such as theft, smuggling, and stowaways. FOI has, therefore, created a system that is capable of detecting divers, swimmers, or small craft which might attempt to approach the quayside or a vessel tied up alongside.

  • New way to lower risk of midair collisions for small aircraft

    Researchers have developed new modifications for technology that helps pilots of small aircraft avoid midair collisions. The modified tools significantly improved pilot response times in making decisions to avert crashes. At issue are “cockpit displays of traffic information” (CDTIs). These are GPS displays used by private pilots to track other aircraft in their vicinity. However, pilots often focus on the closest aircraft on the display — a habit that can pose a significant hazard.

  • Converting light to sound for better weapons detection, medical imaging

    A device that essentially listens for light waves could help open up the last frontier of the electromagnetic spectrum — the terahertz range. So-called T-rays, which are light waves too long for human eyes to see, could help airport security guards find chemical and other weapons. They might let doctors image body tissues with less damage to healthy areas. They could also give astronomers new tools to study planets in other solar systems. Those are just a few possible applications.

  • U.S. to require railroads to notify states when oil is shipped

    With the increase in available oil from fracking and larger pipeline capacity, railways are moving more and more oil. Rail companies moved 400,000 oil carloads in 2013, dwarfing 2005’s 6,000 oil carloads. The increase in oil shipments of oil has led to an increase in the number of accidents involving oil tankers. In the wake of recent accidents, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has released an emergency order to railroad companies which is designed to reduce the risk when shipping crude oil across the nation.

  • Bolstering shipping security

    During a press conference following the March 2014 Nuclear Secu­rity Summit in the Hague, President Barack Obama noted that his biggest security concern was not Russia — or any other regional superpower — but rather “the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.” Experts say that the most likely way in which a nuclear weapon would potentially come to a major U.S. city is not on the tip of a missile but in the belly of a ship, noting that this view has been openly validated by the intelligence community. In 2007, Congress passed a law requiring all overseas cargo containers to be inspected before they are loaded on a U.S.-bound ship. That law, however, has never been enforced.

  • TSA expands PreCheck screening program to international airlines

    The TSA is expanding its PreCheckscreening program to passengers on international airlines. Air Canada is the first international carrier to join the list of PreCheck carriers, which already includes several U.S. airlines.Some international airlines are reluctant to join the PreCheck carrier list because it entails upgrading their computer systems to print a PreCheck logo and embed PreCheck data in their boarding pass barcodes. With Air Canada joining the list, the TSA believes other foreign carriers with a large U.S. passenger base would benefit if they offered PreCheck status to their customers.

  • Using light to detect trace amounts of explosives

    Researchers may help in the fight against terrorism with the creation of a sensor that can detect tiny quantities of explosives with the use of light and special glass fibers. The researchers describe a novel optical fiber sensor which can detect explosives in concentrations as low as 6.3 ppm (parts per million). It requires an analysis time of only a few minutes.

  • Would real-time tracking have helped missing flight MH370?

    By Geoffrey Dell

    The introduction of constant tracking of commercial aircraft during the whole journey has been raised by Malaysian authorities in a preliminary report into missing flight MH370. There have now been two occasions during the last five years when large commercial air transport aircraft have gone missing and their last position was not accurately known. There is little doubt that as the search for MH370 continues without finding evidence of the actual site of the wreckage, and the associated search costs continue to rise, changes to air safety will be made. Already there is a suggestion to increase the duration of the recording time of the cockpit voice recorders from two to twenty hours. The emphasis on looking for alternate means of tracking transport aircraft, and the interest in establishing systems for routine transmission and remote storage of flight data, will also grow within governments globally.