Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Scanning of all US –bound maritime cargo containers delayed

The US Department of Homeland Security delays the 100% cargo scanning of US bound maritime cargo containers.

As the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to embrace a risk-based approach towards securing US supply chains, a second 100% cargo scanning mandate appears to be delayed.

The first delay was that of air cargo scanning. The scanning of air cargo was scheduled to begin the end of last year; however, a number of airlines responded that meeting the deadline of Dec. 31, 2011 would cause "significant disruptions in the air cargo supply chain”. The agency also noted the difficulty in verifying the accuracy of self-reporting screening data from passenger air carriers as well as there were no requirements for all-cargo carriers to report data comparable to passenger air carrier screening data. The DHS responded by suggesting a new compliance deadline of December 2012.

The second 100% cargo screening mandate delay appears to be that for maritime cargo containers. A US congressional committee recently approved a bill that would reauthorize key provisions from the SAFE Port Act supply chain security law. Among the provisions include reductions in redundancies that allow the DHS to recognize other countries’ trusted-shipper programs.  However, the committee did not take up a measure to strike a 9/11 Commission recommendation to scan all US-bound maritime cargo containers prior to loading overseas. As such the mandate was scheduled to take effect July 1.

The 100% scanning of US-bound containers has been opposed by many industry associations including the National Retail Federation (NRF) which issued the following statement: “We do not believe the ‘scan-all’ requirement improves supply chain security,” NRF said. “As the US Customs Border Patrol and Protection has indicated in several congressional reports, there have been continued technological problems, significant costs, resistance from foreign governments and delays at some ports.”

As such the DHS announced it would delay the cargo scanning requirement until 2014. According to the agency, expanding checks at international seaports would be expensive and cumbersome to implement from a diplomatic, administrative and technical standpoint. The full cost of coming into full compliance with the law varies, with estimates ranging from $200m to $16bn. A spokesman for the DHS stated the department "continues to work collaboratively with industry, federal partners, and the international community to expand these programs and our capability to detect, analyze, and report on nuclear and radiological materials.”

It is estimated that about 5% of all cargo containers headed to the US are screened. The DHS’ risk-based approach for screening of cargo calls for extra scrutiny on freight imported from 58 of the most active international shipping hubs such as Dubai and Hong Kong.

The DHS and CBP adopted its risk-based approach towards securing supply chains after both cargo screening mandates were approved by the US Congress. It appears the agencies will need to work more closely with the US government in outlining its ideas for security improvements while at the same time working with international governments and agencies for a unified approach to maintaining safe and secure global supply chains.