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American Shipper

Bonner promotes container seals, says CSI to start in Durban

Bonner promotes container seals, says CSI to start in Durban

   The U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection expects to have a core group of major importers begin employing within a month better container sealing technology recommended by the agency as part of a joint industry effort to reduce the threat of terrorists exploiting international commerce to attack the United States, Commissioner Robert Bonner said.

   Bonner last month outlined his ideas for a so-called 'smart box' that includes a hard-bolt seal located away from the vulnerable handle of the container and some sort of system that signals border inspectors if the seal or container has been tampered with.

   In an interview with a handful of reporters in his office Tuesday, Bonner said the cost for shippers and carriers to add tamper-evident seals would be under $10 per container, including less than $1 for the hard bolt seal and less than $2 to drill holes to accept the seal that doesn't require attaching it to the hinges.

   Bonner has said he envisions the combination seal and sensor technology being adopted by the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program as a security best practice that industry will want to adopt to ensure its shipments are low-risk and get the fasted clearance rates.

   But he emphasized that the system is relatively low-tech and inexpensive.

   'We are not trying to build the Cadillac of smart boxes,' he said. Companies want to add satellite tracking capability or other sensor technology to monitor their shipments during transit, but that is not the type of system Customs seeks. Instead, Customs officers will be outfitted with handheld readers that can electronically query the sensor on the box or trailer and receive a red or green light signal indicating the integrity of the seal.

   The benefits of expedited clearance and reduced insurance premiums 'more than pays for the marginal cost' of the secure seals, Bonner said.

   C-TPAT is part of the U.S. government's strategy of pushing homeland security measures beyond the borders by giving importers an incentive to require their foreign suppliers also adopt internal security controls.

   In a related development, Bonner said U.S. inspectors have been deployed to the Port of Durban in South Africa and will begin targeting and pre-screening U.S. bound cargo next week as part of a program to identify and check high-risk shipments before departure.

   Durban will be the 17th overseas port to operate under terms of the U.S.-sponsored Container Security Initiative. South Africa agreed to participate in the security program last summer.

   Bonner said he will travel to South Africa next week to formally kick-off CSI in Durban, the largest container shipping port in Africa.

   Countries that participate in the CSI program must agree to provide X-ray and other container scanning technology. Customs has occasionally deferred deliveries of large, mobile machines capable of detecting contraband, weapons and other smuggled items because manufacturers are having a tough time meeting all the demand from governments since Sept.11, 2001.

   'There are one or more instances, to get availability of this technology in a CSI port, where we've (Customs) given up our place in line because it is more important to get the technology in a foreign port,' Bonner said.