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KCS touts line security in Mexico

(The following story by John D. Boyd appeared on the Journal of Commerce website on March 17, 2009.)

Kansas City Southern is telling customers that security statistics for its rail operations in Mexico “show outstanding performance and continuous improvement.”

The letter, posted on the KCS Web site by Patrick J. Ottensmeyer, executive vice president for sales and marketing, said that recent news reports “have sparked concerns about unrest in Mexico and the security of shipments in transit there.”

Although KCS did not go into detail, those reports have centered on the escalating drug wars in Mexico, especially near the U.S. border.

The carrier offered assurances that its Kansas City Southern de Mexico unit “remains among the safest means of transportation for freight shipments in Mexico,” and that “the current unrest in Mexico has posed no significant threat to our ability to move traffic in a safe and timely way.”

It said the KCSM claims rate in 2008 for theft, acts of vandalism, accidents or shortages was 0.02 percent, covering its bulk, carload and intermodal traffic. Within those totals the loss or damage on agriculture and minerals loads was 0.061 percent. It was 0.023 percent for total carloads, and 0.001 percent for intermodal.

The company said it did not come by those low rates by chance, but largely from “the implementation of a multi-layered, safety and security process throughout the KCSM network,” that is also linked into law enforcement.”

That involves keeping trains moving along to reduce the potential for loss, and “includes guard points, patrol vehicles, primary security filters and secondary security filters,” with company agents and contractors reporting into a round-the-clock security dispatching desk.

KCS said it also uses a network of X-ray machines, which scan all containers coming through the Pacific Ocean port of Lazaro Cardenas. For those bound for the U.S. market, those boxes are scanned again on each side of the U.S.-Mexico border, with those efforts augmented by a canine unit.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

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