Lufthansa Cargo AG is a world market leader in the global airfreight business with a route network that encompasses more than 500 destinations. In 2005 Lufthansa Cargo handled 1.74 million tons of freight and mail, and weighed in 7.83 billion revenue tonne-kilometers for revenues of around 2.75 billion euros. To ensure its staff, assets, and future revenues, the company knows that it must have effective security systems and procedures.
To that end, Lufthansa Cargo became the first European carrier to be C-TPAT (Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism) certified by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. That was May 2004. This year Lufthansa Cargo has been working intensively to implement the new security directives of Luftfahrt-Bundesamt (LBA), the German government’s equivalent of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Essentially, the law requires that air carriers operating aircraft exceeding 5.7 tons maximum weight must apply security measures at German airports to prevent terrorist acts. It also states that all cargo, mail, and express parcels intended to be carried on passenger or all-cargo aircraft shall be subjected to security controls before being placed on board the aircraft.
Lufthansa Cargo executives are intent on following the spirit, not just the letter, of the law. “In some cases we x-ray, trace screen, and sniff shipments where there was no security done before it reaches us,” states Harald Zielinski, head of security and risk prevention, Lufthansa Cargo AG.
Since October 2003, Lufthansa Cargo has been ramping up security at its Frankfurt hub. In fact, the company has invested so much in security measures there that the facility has earned the moniker of “Fortress Frankfurt.”
In a rare moment of transparency, Lufthansa Cargo permitted the media earlier this year to have a behind-the-scenes look at some of the inner workings of its Frankfurt security hub operations, including its High Valuables Center—a facility normally off limits not only to media but also to most Lufthansa Cargo personnel and even the company’s executive staff. That’s why it is referred to as Lufthansa’s “Fort Knox.”
The security measures Lufthansa Cargo has taken have achieved a dual purpose. In addition to reducing the risk from terrorists, they have diminished theft and pilferage in 2006 to less than 10 percent of 2002 levels.
For starters, Lufthansa Cargo’s dedicated cargo facilities are surrounded by high fencing. The facility offers only one entry into its premises and is separate from all of its neighbors.
“This is a major change we did with our Fort Knox concept. We have our own premises,” says Zielinski. The carrier had to negotiate for this arrangement with Fraport, the Frankfurt airport operator. “But since we did, our success in achieving better security has been impressive,” Zielinski says.
All entrances are controlled. Those entering the premises either by car or by foot must have permission from Lufthansa Cargo authorities and further authorization to enter its buildings.
“We do, in general, allow people we know to walk on the pedestrian walkways or to and from the parking lot unaccompanied,” states Zielinski. “But only when our security level is posted ‘Green.’”
Lufthansa Cargo uses a system of three security levels (green, yellow, and red) to establish what may or may not transpire on its property based on a particular threat level. The threat level is based on information Zielinski receives from the airport police or the company itself.
“The level elevates to yellow if the facility becomes overcrowded by trucks, if there is a threat in the warehouse from a shipment that is going somewhere like the United States, or if someone has called to say we have a bomb,” Zielinski says. Everyone is immediately informed the level has elevated to yellow.
To increase the security level to red requires authorization from management. When there is a red alert, no one is allowed on the premises until he or she is picked up and accompanied by a Lufthansa official.
“We have had red only once and that was when President Bush was in Frankfurt,” Zielinski says. “His aircraft’s position was very close to Lufthansa Cargo’s warehouse facility.”
ID cards. Regardless of the alert level, under no circumstances is anyone allowed into Lufthansa Cargo’s warehouse building without authorization. Persons enter using a smart card at personnel gates and truck checkpoints. Employees, contractors, and vendors enter via the personnel gates by inserting their ID card into a reader. This card includes data about the individual and a digital machine-readable photo of its holder.
For now, Lufthansa does not use a face recognition identification system, but it may in the future. “We believe the technology is not that well developed yet,” Zielinski says. “It could be the target of use next year.”
If the reader determines the person is the same as on the ID card, he or she can push through the turnstile and enter.
“If the card does not work, we have a system whereby the face of the individual trying to use the card pops up on our screen at the Security Command Center,” Zielinski explains. “The individual is then asked his or her name and other information to verify identity. If all matches, he or she is allowed to enter.”
To be issued an ID card, one must undergo a background check by the company. The ID card is good for only one year. If the person fails the background check when renewing, the ID card is automatically canceled and no longer works. If an employee accidentally leaves the ID card at home, he or she may request an ID card for one-day use.
CCTV. A key component to Lufthansa Cargo’s security measures is its two-year-old CCTV system comprising more than 600 video surveillance cameras installed throughout Lufthansa’s Frankfurt hub. “It is the largest such system in the German State of Hessen,” says Zielinski. It cost 7 million euros, and it is still being expanded. By the end of 2007, the carrier expects to have over 800 cameras in place at its facilities at Frankfurt International Airport.
Every turnstile at Lufthansa Cargo’s Frankfurt International Airport operationis equipped with at least three surveillance cameras. “There is not a spot left where we do not have the possibility of looking at what is going on,” says Zielinski. “If it is a weak point, we may have more than three cameras,” he adds.
“Especially important, before you reach the turnstile to exit, you pass one camera where we are able to take a very good photo of your face for possible use in an investigation,” Zielinski says.
The images from the surveillance cameras feed back to a wall of monitors at Lufthansa Cargo’s Security Command Center, where the action can be tracked 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If someone opens a door who is not allowed to open it, an acoustic alarm sounds in the command center. A camera automatically shows the person and his or her activities on the screen. Simultaneously, security guards are sent to the alarm area.
The information is also recorded; the system is set up to be able to play back video recordings of suspicious activities from multiple views.
During the media tour, a Security Command Center official demonstrated how the system works by replaying a video showing how someone tried to help an unauthorized person get inside the building using a passback of his ID card. A man who had just used his card to enter stood at the turnstile waiting for someone. When the person came, he passed him his ID card so that he, too, could use it to enter, but the card did not work, and the individual was stopped by Lufthansa guards.
What the first person did not realize was that the ID cards of Lufthansa Cargo staff are accepted at the turnstiles to its areas and halls only once. Then the system closes the entrance for this ID card for a certain period of time. So it is not possible to go into Lufthansa Cargo areas and give your ID card to another person for entering next.
Any person who is authorized to enter the property but who forgets to bring the ID card can contact the Lufthansa Cargo control center at every turnstile. The center visually identifies the person via video and data and determines whether to open the turnstile to grant that person access.
In another case, Lufthansa Cargo was alerted by a customer that an item was missing from its shipment. Security technology made it easy to solve the case. “We took down the information and knew from which air waybill it came. We entered the air waybill shipment into the system, played back the video, identified the thief, and fired the employee,” Zielinski explains.
Export Warehouse Protection
Terrorism, theft, and pilferage are of particular concern at Lufthansa Cargo’s Export Warehouse. Airlines using the facility to house cargo that will be loaded onto airplanes destined for other countries must comply with strict rules, such as those promulgated by the TSA in the United States. For example, all cargo, regardless of destination, is checked for tampering on acceptance from the agent or the shipper.
Shipments from known consignors and regulated agents destined for the United States are spot-checked for explosives (this is done to 30 percent of them as required by the U.S. government). Shipments from unknown sources are checked 100 percent.
As a starting point, all paperwork for all shipments is checked upon arrival at the warehouse’s acceptance point. “We also check to see if the truck that brought the shipment was well sealed,” states Theodore Kalogiros, Lufthansa Cargo’s Export Warehouse shift leader for security. “If everything is fine, we bring the shipment into the gate and do a spot check.”
If the Frankfurt International Airport operation of Lufthansa Cargo is on a yellow alert, a higher percentage of the shipments are subjected to spot checks. If the alert level is red, 100 percent of shipments must be examined.
To detect the unique electrical properties of explosive substances, Lufthansa Cargo uses trace detection sniffing and swiping equipment.
“We check shipments not secured according to the paperwork,” states Streb Burhard, a Lufthansa Cargo employee who does explosives and trace detection.
During the media tour, Burhard and Kalogiros gave a demonstration of the trace detection process using the Itemiser by General Electric (GE) and the Vapor-Tracer also manufactured by GE. Other trace detection equipment is used within the Export Warehouse.
Trace detectors are based on ion mobility spectrometry. In other words, they absorb the air to check for any molecules that are known to be explosive. Explosive molecules have specific flying times that are detected within the device’s chamber. If the trace detector identifies such molecules, the machine sounds an alarm.
In demonstrating how the Itemiser works, Kalogiros explained that all surfaces of the package must be wiped over with a special cloth. The cloth is then inserted into the machine. If someone has tampered with the box to insert an explosive device or a substance that can be used to make explosives, molecules from those items would be on the hands of the person doing the tampering. Those molecules would be smeared on the box.
“If we get an alarm, we take another sampling,” Kalogiros explains. “If we get a second alarm, we call the airport police. They come with trained sniffing dogs and bring a mobile x-ray machine to check the shipment themselves. If need be, they call the bomb squad at the airport.” (Lufthansa Cargo indicated that it had plans to purchase x-ray screening equipment so that it could be permanently on site.)
To date, the bomb squad has been called to the Lufthansa Cargo Export Warehouse at Frankfurt Airport nine times during the last two years. Each was a false alarm.
VaporTracer checks for molecules in the air. A portable hand-held device, it works like a vacuum cleaner. The machine is especially convenient since it can be placed within a pallet of cargo to absorb the air. “We use it for all shipments, including those going to the United States,” Burhard says.
Operating the trace detection equipment is not difficult, but it does take some initial training. Training is provided by the manufacturer or the company that sells the machine. Once an employee gets licensed to operate the machine, he can train other employees, as Burhard has done.
While facilities in other countries, including France and the United States, employ dogs to sniff out explosives, Lufthansa Cargo prefers to use machines. “The biggest problem is the dogs get tired very quickly,” states Burhard. But he says that there are ways to minimize the problem.
“The French have a good system where they capture the air from a truck with a filter, then put the filter onto a desk where the dog sniffs the filters. This way the dog doesn’t get as tired,” he continues. “If the dog detects something, they take the dog away and bring in a second dog to make sure the first was not mistaken.”
High Valuables Center
The crown jewel in Lufthansa Cargo’s operations at Frankfurt International Airport is its High Valuables Center. Valuables handled here range from banknotes to jewels and diamonds; precious metals such as gold bars, gold dust, silver, and platinum; traveler’s checks; unsigned credit cards; high-value medicines; and art work. Here the threat is not only terrorism but armed robbery and theft.
To point out just how important the facility is, the center was chosen by German Bundesbank to store and handle the shipment of euro banknotes just prior to the new currency’s introduction in the European Union. “On one day we had in here more than 40 tons of banknotes worth billions of euros,” Zielinski says. “Everyone was sleepless.”
On the outside, the High Valuables Center looks like a run-of-the-mill warehouse, but it is not. Dirk Heil, manager in charge of valuable cargo at Lufthansa Cargo for nearly four years, explains, for example, that the facility has double walls. Therefore, it is impossible to break in by ramming the building with a truck. In addition, entrances are secured with mantraps. The 50 employees who have clearance to go inside must pass through two sets of secured doors.
Throughout the facility are CCTV cameras and sensors. The center contains two very large vaults that reach seven stories down into the earth.
Heil explains that a valuables shipment, as all shipments, comes with an air waybill. “This is our lead document,” he says. The shipment is transported by armed vehicle to the airport where Lufthansa Cargo takes over responsibility by placing it in this “Fort Knox.”
“We are one of the few carriers that specializes in the transporting of valuable goods,” Heil adds. “Everyone does it, but few specialize in it.”
When it is time to move the valuables away from the High Valuables Center, they are sealed in metal security containers that are reinforced by metal bars.
The boxes are then transported in armored vehicles to the aircraft on the apron. Lufthansa Cargo uses white security cars on the airport grounds to escort the shipment to the aircraft. The cars are used exclusively for this purpose.
“They will not leave the aircraft before the shipment is loaded and the airplane cargo door is locked,” Heil says.
In all situations, at least two people move the shipment. That ensures that no single employee will have the chance to steal something.
“Two people control each other,” says Heil. “This is normal practice in the valuables business on the streets, but not in the airline business.”
Prior to the aircraft’s liftoff, Lufthansa Cargo calls the customer to let a contact person know that the shipment is on its way. The two employees stay in the armored vehicles near the aircraft on the apron until the aircraft is ready to take off with the cargo.
Lufthansa Cargo has demonstrated the same commitment to security at its other global cargo hubs. The company equipped Shanghai Pudong Airport some years ago with a secure palletizing facility and three x-ray devices. The entire Shanghai facility is video-monitored around the clock.
It spent $161 million to make the Lufthansa Cargo Terminal at New York’s JFK International Airport among the most secure of its kind in the world. The terminal, which opened in July 2003, has a state-of-the-art security system that relies on a combination of diverse access control procedures ranging from a CCTV to the use of biometric fingerprint checks for ID confirmation.
Lufthansa Cargo executives know that the vulnerability of airfreight can never be reduced to zero by any corporate or governmental security measure, but the carrier has made every effort to create a secure environment. “We will never have 100 percent security, but I think we are very close,” says Zielinski.
Karen E. Thuermer is a freelance writer based in Alexandria, Virginia.