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Thirteen Years After 9/11, A New Attempt To Screen 100 Percent of Cargo Containers

By September 15, 2014No Comments

Original article from Roll Call, September 12, 2014, by Tom Curry.

In 2007, to avert the danger of a terrorist attack on an American port, Congress required that all containers coming to the United States be scanned by non-intrusive inspection and radiation detection equipment before being loaded onto U.S.-bound ships in foreign ports.

It set July 1, 2012 as the deadline for achieving this goal.

But the Department of Homeland Security has delayed that deadline and, according to Rep.Janice Hahn, D- Calif., “We only scan 3 percent of incoming cargo.”

And the Government Accountability Office has identified serious problems  and wasted spending on various cargo screening initiatives launched by Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

This week, on the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Hahn, (Twitter:@Rep_JaniceHahn) whose district includes the Port of Los Angeles, proposed another try at reaching 100 percent scanning.

“The technology exists today to implement efficient scanning that does not disrupt or slow the flow of commerce,” Hahn said as she introduced a bill that would test the implementation of 100 percent scanning technology at two U.S. ports.

“My bill would help demonstrate that scanning technology is effective and then we can move towards its widespread implementation so that 100 percent of shipping containers passing through all U.S. ports can be determined to be safe.”

Hahn spokesman Michael Levin said Hahn “is not endorsing any specific company or technology and her legislation does not give a preference to any specific technology” but leaves it to the Secretary of Homeland Security to select the equipment.

Levin said Hahn has received briefings by companies that produce technology. An example is the Multi-Mode Passive Detective System made by Decision Sciences.

Hahn’s legislation authorizes up to $30 million to carry out the pilot program

In a report last year, the Congressional Research Service said CBP had identified three obstacles to implementing 100 percent scanning of U.S.-bound cargo containers at foreign ports.

  • Lack of foreign buy-in: “Some foreign governments and business groups do not support 100% scanning.”
  • Logistical problems, such as high-volume ports with complex port architectures.
  • Cost. According to a 2012 Congressional Budget Office estimate, 100 percent scanning at foreign ports would cost $16.8 billion a year.


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