Saturday 4th Apr 2020 - Logistics & Supply Chain

The implications of terrorist attacks for global commerce

In light of the terrorist attacks of recent months, it’s hard to ignore the implications for global commerce and supply chain security. London’s ‘7/7’ and subsequent attacks reinforce the message from New York, Bali, and Madrid that more intrusive security procedures have a role in preventing attacks. But the extent of that role must be a matter of careful judgement.

The spread of containerisation, more effective transportation and supply chain innovation have gone hand in hand with international economic development to produce a radically different global economic system to that of, say, 30 years ago. Underlying this change has been much greater freedom of movement for both people and goods. We in Europe pioneered both the concept and the implementation of such principles.

This freedom was hard won and cannot be reversed easily. But while it has brought considerable benefits, freedom can be abused by those intent upon malice, and as a result some are persuaded that movement restrictions are the key to the prevention of further terrorist attacks. This is understandable in the aftermath of shocking atrocities but the issue is not so simple.

For a start, there are some important philosophical issues: just how far do you go in imposing greater controls before you find this changes your way of life to the extent that in practice it achieves the aims of those who sought to disrupt your society in the first place? What is the balance between practical matters such as more movement controls and winning hearts and minds? At the practical level, a particular concern must be to ensure over-reaction does not lead to controls that are impractical and cannot be enforced.

For those of us engaged in the supply chain, these matters have an international dimension. Inevitably, international agreement will take time and it is important to use what time we have to inform those responsible for security at national and international level of the realities of the situation. With a rigorous and practical approach, procedures can be tightened so that it is more difficult for would-be terrorists to abuse our logistic systems without unduly restricting the flow of commerce that is the lifeblood of our society. A vital part of this will be motivating and training those engaged in the supply chain.

In the end, security measures are only as effective as the people who enforce them.

Graham A Ewer CB CBE

VLM President appointed to ‘Officer in de Orde van Oranje Nassau’

A surprise for Hugo Roos, president of the Dutch ELA member association VLM, the other month as he was appointed to ‘Officer in de Orde van Oranje Nassau’ on June 17. He received his medal from Minister Karla Peijs at the traffic ministry. Officials had lured him to the ministry under false pretences. He found his wife, daughters and other guests waiting for him.

Professor Roos deserved this honour, said the minister, not only because of his scientific career and his work on governing boards and advisory bodies but also because he, by his character, acts as a bridge builder in the world of Netherlands logistics. As an example, last year Professor Roos took the initiative in establishing a National Logistics Week, an event you no doubt read about in these pages in a previous issue.

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