TSA looking for ideas on seals for air-borne cargo containers

Published 10 January 2006

TSA’s new emphasis on air cargo security leads it to seek information on cargo and package seals

The shift in the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) emphasis in aviation security from searching passengers’ bags to scanning and securing cargo through explosive detection systems and other means continue. These “other means” now include container seals to improve the security of air cargo. The TSA is thinking about using locks, tape, or others seals to secure cargo carried by commercial aircraft. In a 6 January 2006 Federal Register notice, TSA asked container seal companies to submit descriptions of their seals and explain the technologies and methods they would use to secure various different types of air cargo. You would be surprised that, currently, shipping companies are not required to put container seals on the boxes, pallets, shrink-wrapped packages, and other air cargo they ship. One reason why seals are typically used in maritime cargo and not in cargo carried on airlines is that maritime cargo containers tend to be of standard size and shape, while airline cargo containers and packages come in all shapes and forms.

No price range for the seals was mentioned in the RFI, but industry insiders say such seals may range in price from 5 cents to $100. There are different types of seals: Indicative seals range from about 5 to 20 cents; barrier seal cost between 50 cents and $2 or so; RFID seals cost between $1 and $10, but the more sophisticated active RFID tags may cost as much as $100. Jerry McNerney, senior director for travel and transportation industry solutions at Holtsville, New York-based Symbol Technologies, noted TSA’s search for high-tech ideas, and says: “TSA is looking to step up the game.”

-read more in Caitlin Harrington’s CQ report (sub. req.)

Example of container seals from Livingston, New Jersey-based E. J. Brooks company

Ring Pull II seal

Active RFID disposable seal

Passive RFID tag