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CONTAINER INDUSTRY
WorldCargo
news
Container scanning deadline extended
A
fter encountering considerable
Although mandatory screening of all US-bound containers at their
by a feasibility study carried out by the CBP
opposition, the planned introduc- itself, together with the US Department
tion in 2012 of a new security
foreign port of origin has been delayed two years (until 2014), the
of Energy (DoE), which conclusively high-
regime requiring all US-bound contain- lighted the problems inherent in achiev-
ers to be screened at their foreign port of
issue of container port security remains high on the agenda
ing a 100% scan rate at any containerport.
origin has been postponed. Its enforcement
has been delayed two years until July 2014, Other detractors pointed out that the gramme to ensure trade moving to/from Working in conjunction with the SFI programme
thereby buying the global container port US bill made no reference to the SAFE European countries is secure. The WCO University of Le Havre, the WCO com- This US-led programme formed a cen-
industry much-needed extra time. Framework of Standards, which was in- (and EU) initiatives place less emphasis missioned its own study in 2008 to evalu- tral part of the Secure Freight Initiative
The new US ruling stems from the troduced by the World Customs’ Organi- on scanner use as the only option for en- ate the feasibility of enforcing the US bill (SFI), which launched in 2006 and was
9/11 Act passed by US Congress and key sation (WCO) in 2005 and had already hancing container security at ports and and drew much the same conclusion as completed late in 2009. In all, seven ports
to its implementation is the installation been widely adopted by the international instead advocate the building of more the majority of ports, ie that its immi- were selected for involvement in the SFI
of advanced container scanning equip- community. The EU, for example, has em- comprehensive intelligence-based proc- nent implementation was unrealistic and programme, of which five actually took
ment at seaports around the world using bodied this approach within its Author- esses based on risk management and the would be too costly. part. Amongst those originally selected
X-ray and other non-invasive technology ised Economic Operator (AEO) pro- better sharing of information. These findings were finally borne out were Puerto Cortes, Port Qasim and
to detect illegal shipments and concealed
weapons. Its operation is to be overseen
by national Customs bodies interfacing
with the US Customs and Border Pro-
tection (CBP) agency.
The nuclear threat is also being ad-
dressed through a parallel deployment of
radiation detection equipment. The use
of this advanced hardware is, in the view
of the CBP, the only realistic way that
ports can achieve the 100% inspection rate
stipulated by the original 9/11 Act.
High priority
Not that this delayed implementation in-
dicates any downgrading in the impor-
tance of the port security issue. It still re-
mains a high priority in most countries,
all of which are confronting an ever-ris-
ing tide of crime and the potential threat
of terrorism. The latter is deemed the most
serious, given the peculiar vulnerability
of containerports to any sort of terrorist
attack, but many port/Customs authori-
ties are equally keen to clamp down on
the smuggling of narcotics, counterfeit or
non-declared goods, immigrants and fire-
arms. These activities inflict a high cost
on the global economy, which continues
to lose many billions of dollars annually
through duty evasion alone.
However, legislators in the US have
had to recognise that the mandatory 100%
container screening programme was un-
workable within the original timeframe
laid down in the 9/11 Act. The initial bill
(entitled House Resolution No 1, or
HR1) first saw the light of day in 2008,
leaving just four years for its enforcement.
The reality was that, from July 2012
onwards, a total of 10M containers would
have to be screened every year by 610
seaports (based on traffic flows in 2008)
and their images received and processed
by the US-based CBP prior to gaining
entry to US ports. Not surprisingly, the
unilateral character of the HR1 bill, to-
gether with its inflexible deadline, at-
tracted very strong criticism.
Opposition came from port and trade
associations across Europe, South America
and Asia, with critics in Germany (acting
through its seaports organisation) and In-
dia particularly vociferous. Although no
affected port is actively against improv-
ing security practices, most felt the US
action was too much too soon, and too
one-sided, and there was soon talk of simi-
lar unilateral action being taken against
containers being exported through ter-
minals in the US. Most crucially, the ex-
tra costs associated with compulsory con-
tainer scanning were expected to add at
least US$1B annually to terminal han-
dling charges outside the US.
Cost implications
One particular grievance was that, as over
85% of all container cargo currently des-
tined for the US originates at less than
60 ports worldwide, a disproportionate
burden would be placed on the balance
of 550 ports handling relatively small vol-
umes of US-bound trade. It was widely
felt that the US government had greatly
underestimated the cost implications and
the disruption/delays that could occur at
ports/terminals around the world, which
might render the security position more,
rather than less, precarious.
The fact that the world’s container
transport industry was also heading into its
worst-ever recession merely added to the
problem, while another key concern was
that some existing technology was not up
to the job of comprehensively screening
huge numbers of containers in rapid flow.
February 2010 43
43_pos47_WCN_Feb.indd 1 05/03/2010 15:44:50
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