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Exporters seeing rise in scrap thefts

Keywords: Tags  scrap exports, Operation Green Fence, container thefts, Sealock Security Systems, Ray Fernandez, Robert Voss, Voss International, Nathan Laliberte

NEW YORK — Shippers of raw materials have seen a dramatic increase in thefts from containers in China, an indirect result of the country’s Operation Green Fence crackdown on scrap imports.

Several exporters indicated that as China steps up inspections of scrap imports, customs officials are putting "knock-off" locking devices on containers following an inspection, compromising the integrity of the loads.

"You go through all the trouble to secure a load, and customs decides they want to look in the container and then put a really cheap seal back on," one exporter told AMM. "It’s frustrating because it eliminates the precautions that we have put in place."

In an effort to mitigate the risks associated with customs inspections, some shippers to China have begun to include a second locking system—and instructions for proper installation of the device—in an envelope inside the container.

"If officials demand a physical inspection, customs has the right to break the seal," said Ray Fernandez, vice president of sales for Sealock Security Systems Inc., a Miami-based company that provides tamper-evident locking and sealing systems to the shipping industry. "Equipping containers with a secondary seal and locking system is the best way to ensure the integrity of the shipment once it moves on from the port."

If a container leaves the port of entry with a properly installed sealing and locking system, the chances of theft are dramatically reduced, Fernandez said. "In order to properly protect loads, shippers need to realize that both doors on the container need to be protected simultaneously. The device needs to be easy to apply, difficult to defeat and have built-in tamper-evident features."

Bolt locks—the most common form of locking systems used by shippers—are no longer sufficient if used on a stand-alone basis, shippers said. Several sources said they are now using bolt locks in conjunction with a variety of other devices, including cable locks, tamper-evident door seals and locking bars, to protect loads.

"We have identified eight ways that criminals can gain entry into a container in under 30 seconds for shipments that are secured with a single bolt lock," Fernandez said. "It seems that today, even with a huge increase in theft, some exporters don’t seem to have a clue. They are operating under a false sense of security and are continually paying the price."

"Over the past six months, we’ve taken various courses of action to secure our overseas shipments," said Robert Voss, managing director of United Kingdom-based Voss International Ltd. "We’ve improved the quality of seals and are making sure that we are sealing both doors together. Essentially, we want to make it so incredibly difficult to gain access that thieves will move on to the next container."

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