Port Safety Risk Management Vs Ever-Increasing Cargo Volume

As a designated Facility Security Officer for 5 mid-Atlantic Port Terminals for seven years who also had an open eye for safety, one of my unwritten tasks was to get out and circulate among our customers, tenants, stevedores, workers, contractors and vendors ( not to leave out business development and VIP tours) to observe access and perimeter security processes on a nearly daily basis. I also made it a habit to have frequent contact with Terminal Management, and share a few thoughts on incidents, projects or trends if time in between the nonstop meetings and calls. This cave me direct observation of traffic volume, habits and efficiency.

On the subject of trends, one redundant theme I heard from Terminal management particularly at our container facilities, was the push for and plans to increase cargo volume 30-50% over the next 2-3 years. I would shake my head & think, "How is that possible, with any consideration for safely?"

I also represented my Department at monthly All-user Safety Committee meetings, working with some very good safety professionals from a variety of backgrounds and missions, but we all had a common mission for those 2 hours: Hear and review incident summaries, then discuss and work to resolve ongoing safety issues brought to the group. Many items were unfortunately recurring, ongoing battles against complacency, "time = money" mentalities of a thousand truck drivers, that somehow justified driving 70,000 lb tractor-trailer rigs on-Terminal like a NASCAR event, inadequate Port law enforcement & penalties to curb illegal actions, and inadequate signage and traffic controls. Manifestly unsafe acts that were noted and stopped were also gone over to insure any lessons-learned got to all parties concerned.

Ports vary in traffic configurations, but at these, there were both over-the-road (OTF) trucks and stevedore-hired labor union truck drivers working different areas. Mix in the privately-owned vehicles of workers, vendors etc zipping in & out for lunch, slow-mode visitors that are not really sure of the directions they were given, operators piloting 30 ft high container handlers in and out of the traffic roadways , contractors working on foot near traffic corridors, and the Security / police and Safety oversight staff – which are almost always too small to adequately handle their tasks- have a motorized Dodge-City Goliath in front of them – and that's with the present business cargo volumes!

In order to prevent skyrocketing equipment damage claims, injuries and fatalities, workers' comp cases, traffic-snarl losses of productivity, and insurance rates, front offices, planners and strategic budget management must look at the systems in place to influence or manage the sheer traffic volumes and behavior of users and drivers. While electronic engineering controls are very wowing and do not have to be paid benefits, like security electronics these are fussy systems and expensive to maintain over the long haul. Security and safety PERSONNEL staffing + adjustments (and appropriate training) must be incorporated and enacted to accommodate these grand board-pleasing plans to stuff more volume into the same size sock.

Effective routing of thousands of daily tractor trailer drivers that are on the clock "by the load" is a must. Adequate funding of law enforcement and safety / risk management monitoring staff, as well as effective signage and an effective non-compliant penal system to handle these desired volume increases (which usually obtain a distant backseat ticket at the budget meetings), are an absolute must to make that size jump in volume "work" and avoid the backlash of through-the-roof insurance claims / premiums, lawsuits and historically garnering a bad reputation with Port users.