DHS Continues to Oppose 100 Percent Cargo Screening
By Stew Magnuson and Breanne Wagner
Customs and Border Protection is pressing on with congressionally mandated pilot projects that will show if it is feasible to screen every shipping container for nuclear materials before they arrive at U.S. ports.
They will share the results of these operational tests with Congress in April, however, CBP commissioner R. Ralph Basham hopes lawmakers will scrap the idea, which calls for 100 percent screening of sea and air cargo by 2012.
“It is no secret that we in DHS did not favor this approach, since we felt the risk-based strategy … is both more effective and more operationally feasible,” he told the annual CBP Trade Symposium.
CBP has a manifest data mining system that is supposed to designate high-risk containers to be separated out for special screening. Low-risk containers would be speeded through.
DHS’ opposition to the idea was well known on Capitol Hill this summer, but the 9/11 bill reiterated Congress’ support for the idea when it passed by an overwhelming margin.
The pilot projects are ongoing in Qasim, Pakistan, Cortes, Honduras and Southampton, United Kingdom. There will be “modified versions” of the pilots kicking off early this year in Singapore, Hong Kong, Salalah, Oman, and Pusan, South Korea.
Basham said overseas trading partners share DHS’ opposition to the law.
“I can tell you they’re unhappy,” he told reporters later.
Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson backed up that claim at the symposium.
“We need to consider carefully the implications of 100 percent container screening relative to a risk-based system targeted at shipments that are higher risk on the global supply chain, and whether the benefits will justify the very significant costs.”