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Secure Transportation of Sensitive Items

Guidance for those responsible for planning the movement of sensitive items on the need for protective security during transportation

Last Updated 26 February 2023


This section provides those responsible for planning the movement of sensitive items with guidance on the need for protective security during transportation, the development of robust policy and procedures, and implementation of approved security equipment. Common transport scenarios include:

  • Staff carrying items on their person
  • Working remotely or abroad (e.g. from home or a hotel)
  • Transporting items by vehicle

What are the threats?

There are many potential threats to the transportation process including:

  • Accidental loss 
  • Opportunist theft 
  • Emergency abandonment 
  • Hijack or vehicle theft 
  • Insider attack 
  • Espionage

Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of transportation policy and procedures

Once the nature of the threat is understood, practitioners should take a methodical and considered approach to determine the most appropriate and proportionate transportation procedures, using the guidance documents presented on this page.

If overseas travel will occur, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) provides advice for travelling abroad and specific country guides.

Additional information may also be obtained through liaison with:

  • Internal transport or travel policy managers
  • Colleagues at the destination or that have also undertaken the task.

Clients of NPSA may also liaise with their NPSA advisers.

Mitigating the risk of sensitive items falling into the wrong hands

Based on the structured assessment of the need, consider options to achieve the desired balance between security and operational effectiveness. In broad terms travel or transportation tasks can be divided into three stages, each with their own considerations:

Planning (before travelling)

  • Physical assets - identify what is being moved.
  • Classification - of the items will determine the overall level of protection required.
  • People - identify all those involved in the transport process (e.g. supervisor, manager, courier, escort, emergency services, recipient) and their responsibilities.
  • Method of movement - describe how the item will be moved (e.g. when, mode of transport, routes, waypoints, destination).
  • Risk assessment - based on the likelihood of compromise and impact of asset loss. Consider both local and route specific threats (e.g. site security and border security).
  • Security measures - should be commensurate with the risk assessment and enable those involved to effectively manage the live transport process.
  • Contingency - consider the alternative transport options or response should sensitive items be compromised.
  • Training - ensure that appropriate training and task-specific briefings have been provided to the relevant personnel.

Manage (during travel)

  • Awareness - of your surroundings and potential threats, especially when escorting others.
  • Profile - personnel and supporting equipment should be discreet. The use of a more obvious secure transportation procedure may also be an option, but is likely to make use of other diplomatic or overt security measures.
  • Communication - be prepared to provide status updates or call for assistance as required.
  • Physical protection -  solutions designed to mitigate physical security threats such as opportunist theft or forced entry access.
  • Tamper protection - solutions designed to mitigate surreptitious unauthorised access.

Arrival (after travel)

  • Check - the item has arrived intact and has not been compromised. 
  • Confirm delivery - with the recipient or owner (e.g. by way of receipt). 

The entire procedure should be assessed as safe (or at least risk-managed), all those involved cleared as fit to travel, and the task appropriately recorded for auditing purposes.

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