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100% Container Screening

The new Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, former Governor of Arizona, testified at her confirmation hearing that she shared her predecessor’s concern that it would not be physically feasible or cost effective to scan every container bound for the United States.  Since many appointments have not yet been finalized at the lower levels within the Department, it is too early to determine what policy recommendation the Obama Administration will be making on this issue.  Given the economic downturn, great concerns have been expressed about the costs of the scanning equipment.  CBP has quietly let it be known that it is prepared to approve privately developed screening and scanning systems to be deployed at foreign ports, in lieu of equipment bought and installed at the expense of the U.S. Government.

The Heritage Foundation, a research organization in the U.S., has recently criticized the requirement to scan all air and sea freight coming into the country claiming that it will negatively affect the economy and the supply chain.  The Heritage Foundation report claims that 100% scanning of 11 million TEUs by the Secure Freight Initiative is impracticable and costly and not understandable.  On February 25, 2009, Secretary Napolitano testified before the U.S. House of Representatives stating that the scanning initiative is impractical and must be re-examined.  The U.S. Congress, however, remains unconvinced and continues to support the 100% scanning initiative.  This is a work in progress that warrants further monitoring in the coming months.

RECENT DEVELOPMENT - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has announced an interim final rule implementing the Certified Cargo Screening Program, a system that TSA will utilize to implement the air cargo security requirements of 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. The Interim Final Rule continues to mandate 100% screening of all belly cargo on commercial airlines by August of 2010. The rule will allow air cargo to be screened offsite and transported securely to the airport without re-screening. Once the new rule is effective, entities may apply to become a Certified Cargo Screening Facility (CCSF) under strict TSA security guidelines and chain-of-custody requirements. Applicants must also implement a multi-layered security program including background checks and access controls. The Interim Final Rule will be effective 60 days from the date it is published in the Federal Register.     

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