100% Screening and Other Cargo Insecurities
September 18, 2007
Transportation systems seem particularly attractive targets for terrorists nowadays. Growing concern over these types of attacks' catastrophic consequences has led to measures for increasing physical security.
Further, transportation systems seem a particularly attractive target: trains in Spain, the London underground, hijacked planes and so on.
Last December, President George W. Bush issued an Executive Order entitled Strengthening Surface Transportation Security, in which he instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security in coordination with the Secretary of Transportation to assess each surface transportation mode and evaluate the effectiveness of current federal security initiatives.
Those who operate ships recognize the dangers of shipping un-inspected cargo, though not as intensely as some prefer. The growing concern over the likelihood of a catastrophic act of maritime and other transport-system terrorism has led to measures for increasing physical security.
Among such measures, one could cite the strict enforcement of the International Code for Security of Ships and of Port Facilities (ISPS) Code, which was adopted in December 2002 and went into effect globally in July 2004. The code, which was introduced by the International Maritime Organization in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, attempts toward a similar strict enforcement of the Container Security Initiative.
Beyond ships and ports, the danger of importing nuclear bombs and other weapons (not to mention terrorists, themselves) in containers may have increased with the U.S. government having opened the borders and highways to Mexican truckers working for 100 companies, according to a 20-plus-year truck driver at FamilySecurityMatters.com.
Mark R. Taylor of the Family Security Foundation, Inc. notes:
The FAST system, which will allow trucks across the border without the theoretically extensive cargo search they now face, does nothing more than create an easy pass for the drugs and human smuggling beyond anything the average American can comprehend.
"The threat to homeland security is enormous," Taylor writes.
Enter the measure signed into law last month by President Bush.
"The specter of a nuclear bomb, hidden in a cargo container detonating in an American port has prompted Congress to require 100 percent screening of U.S.-bound ships at their more than 600 foreign starting points," recently reported The Associated Press.
The law, as per AP, sets a five-year deadline for having the system in place but, "recognizing the technology still might not be available, gives the Homeland Security secretary the authority to extend the deadline by two-year increments."
Scanning containers at their points of origin is a highlight of that law.
The current risk-based, layered approach to port security has several main components:
Under the Container Security Initiative, teams from Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection division review manifests at some 50 ports covering more than 80 percent of the container cargo shipped to the U.S. Containers identified as high risk are subjected to X-ray and radiation scanning.
Homeland Security has set a goal of screening, by the end of 2007, close to 100 percent of all containers entering the country by sea for radiological and nuclear material, using what are called Radiation Portal Monitors.
Under a pilot program called the Secure Freight Initiative, created in a port security bill passed last year, Homeland Security is testing high-volume scanning at six ports in Pakistan, Honduras, Britain, Oman, Singapore and South Korea.
Homeland Security's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office also plans to award up to US$1.2 billion over the next five years to develop and acquire "a next-generation radiation monitor for land and sea cargo" known as Advanced Spectroscopic Portals.
Industry groups that lobbied against the 100 percent screening asked whether Congress intends to cut off trade with small-volume ports that cannot install the needed technology. They also warn of foreign governments retaliating by requiring U.S. ports to set up the same inspection regimen.
"A regulatory framework designed to ensure inspection of every piece of cargo transported via air, assuming that it could even be implemented, would place an 'impossible burden on air commerce,'" warned the National Industrial Transportation League, one of the nation's oldest shipper organizations, almost one year ago (via Inbound Logistics).
Currently, high fuel prices and resulting surcharges continue to inhibit air cargo growth, Robert Dahl, Air Cargo Management Group, recently told Inbound Logistics. To add the cost of 100 percent cargo inspections on top of the hefty fuel surcharges would inevitably hurt the air cargo industry.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said "it would be wonderful" if all containers were inspected before they left foreign ports. "But it's got to be done in a way that reflects reality and also reflects the fact that we're not the only players in this pool."
President Bush said he would work with lawmakers to ensure the cargo screening provisions do not impede commerce.
To Thwart Nuclear Terror, US Directs Trade Partners to Inspect 11 Million Cargo Containers The Associated Press (via International Herald Tribune), Aug. 23, 2007
High 5 Air Cargo's Top Challenges by Lisa Harrington Inbound Logistics, October 2006
Year in Review: U.S. Air Freight/Express Industry by Amy Partridge Inbound Logistics, August 2007
Ensuring the Safety and Security of My Truck and Cargo by Mark Taylor The Family Security Foundation, Inc., Sept. 5, 2007
IMO adopts comprehensive maritime security measures International Maritime Organization, December 2002
Enhanced Security for Ships by Animesh Singh The Business Standard, Sept. 5, 2007
German Police Arrest 3 in Imminent Terrorist Plot by Mark Landler and Nicholas Kulish The New York Times, Sept. 5, 2007