Friday, December 01, 2006

Defense contractor Lockheed partners with NASCO to monitor Corridor cargo

Group announces new transportation tracking system

Dec. 01, 2006

David Twiddy
Associated Press
Copyright 2006

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A group advocating a seamless trade corridor through North America said Friday it's teaming up with Lockheed Martin Corp. to build a technology system capable of remotely tracking cargo.

North America's SuperCorridor Coalition Inc., a Dallas-based organization that supports efforts to improve and maintain Interstates 35, 29 and 94 linking Mexico to Canada, said the system would use Lockheed's electronic sensor equipment to note when cargo leaves a port and where it travels and even to warn if the cargo's temperature and weight changes.

"The ultimately goal is that it provides data to the ultimate user (of the cargo) of how to do things more efficiently and more securely," said Jim Bergfalk, a Kansas City transport consultant who will be president of NASCO's independent organization overseeing the program.

Bergfalk added that the network would also fulfill future demands from homeland security officials that shippers have a way to ensure that hazardous materials are being transported safely. He also said that once a shipment was entered into the system and being monitored, customs officials wouldn't have to stop the shipment again, cutting sometimes days out of the journey.

John Mohler, senior program manager for Lockheed, told a transportation conference in Kansas City that Lockheed will set up a pilot project to test the network. It would develop 14 sensor locations - including such stops as the Mexican port of Lazaro Cardenas; Laredo, Texas; Kansas City; and Winnipeg, Canada - within the next three months to track specific shipments moving through the NASCO corridor.

Mohler said Lockheed would contribute $5 million of the project's $7 million price tag, with the rest expected to come from federal money and other funding. A formal agreement between the two sides is expected in two weeks.

Eventually, Mohler said the network could cost $40 million and include between 350 and 400 sensor locations within the corridor as well as a "command and control center," which could monitor information on tracked shipments. In the meantime, that information will go to Lockheed's logistics center in Norfolk, Va.

Helping companies keep a better eye on shipments isn't new, especially as various groups look to break down trade barriers between Mexico, Canada and the U.S. to create a regional trading bloc.

Kansas City SmartPort Inc., a nonprofit organization promoting the city as an inland port for shipments from Mexico, earlier in the day said it was developing a "trade data exchange," which would bring together trucking, logistics and railroad companies to track cargo traveling across the country, not just in the NASCO corridor.

Bergfalk said NASCO and Lockheed are setting up an "electronic backbone" of sensors that could ultimately coexist with groups like SmartPort and make their jobs easier.

"Our ultimate goal is to drive as much of that cargo up this corridor as possible," he said.


North America's SuperCorridor Coalition:

© 2006 The Associated Press: