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US doubts on 100% screening of containers

Monday, 20 February 2012 | 00:00
US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have not shown they can meet 100% screening of cargo containers, as required by the 9/11 Act, according to Stephen Caldwell Director, Homeland Security and Justice for the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) .
“Uncertainty persists over how DHS and CBP will fulfill the mandate for 100% scanning, given that the feasibility remains unproven in light of the challenges CBP has faced implementing a pilot programmme,” Caldwell said in a statement to the House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security.
In 2006, the CBP, Department of State and Department of Energy launched the Secure Freight Initiative (SFI), a pilot programme to determine the feasibility of 100% scanning.
However, participating ports were unable to achieve 100% scanning, and the CBP has since reduced the SFI scope from six ports to one.
Challenges encountered at the ports included safety concerns, logistical problems with containers transferred from rail or other vessels, scanning equipment breakdowns and poor-quality scan images.
Caldwell added: “Furthermore, since the 9/11 Act did not specify who is to conduct the container scans, or who is to pay for scanning equipment or operations and maintenance, questions persist regarding who will bear the costs of scanning,” Caldwell added.
Caldwell testified that in 2009, the GAO recommended that the CBP perform an assessment to determine if 100% scanning was feasible, as well as to identify the best way to achieve it, or present acceptable alternatives.
“To date, the CBP has not conducted such an assessment, or identified alternatives to 100% scanning,” he said.
“CBP officials told us in August 2011 that the agency’s position was that a risk-based approach to global supply chain security was a more feasible and responsible approach than 100% scanning,” he added.
Caldwell also revealed that the DHS had acknowledged it would not be able to meet the 9/11 Act’s July 2012 deadline for implementing 100% scanning, and it expects to grant a blanket extension to all foreign ports to July 2014.
Source: Port News
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