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American Shipper

DHS rolls out Secure Freight Initiative

DHS rolls out Secure Freight Initiative

The Department of Homeland Security announced that six foreign ports will use an integrated system to scan U.S. bound containers for smuggled nuclear weapons or material and electronically transmit the readings to the National Targeting Center for analysis.

   The department touted the effort as the first phase of its Secure Freight Initiative. DHS and the Department of Energy will install in early 2007 a system that integrates radiation portal monitors, X-ray imaging devices and optical character readers to ID the container at the following ports:

   * Port Qasim, Pakistan.

   * Puerto Cortes, Honduras.

   * Southampton, United Kingdom.

   * Port Salalah, Oman.

   * Port of Singapore.

   * Port Busan (Gamman Terminal), South Korea.

   'This initiative advances a comprehensive strategy to secure the global supply chain and cut off any possibility of exploitation by terrorists. I appreciate the commitment of our international allies in sharing more information and harmonizing our risk reduction efforts,” said DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff in a statement.

   The integrated inspection system goes beyond the requirements of the SAFE Ports Act, which mandated DHS start a pilot program for an integrated inspection system at three foreign ports. DHS said all containers will be scanned for radiation in Port Qasim, Puerto Cortes and Southampton. The department is working on a phased deployment strategy in Singapore and Port Busan because of the logistical challenges posed by such large ports. Under current practice, radiation detection and imaging of the contents are done separately at different locations and not all containers undergo both procedures.

   Secure Freight originally was articulated as a system to collect and analyze commercial trade data, but has been expanded to include the use of non-intrusive imaging and radiation detection equipment to automatically scan all containers at a foreign port and plug the data into the government’s automated targeting system to determine whether the contents match the manifest or require further inspection.

   In the event of a detection alarm, both DHS and host country authorities will simultaneously receive an alert. DHS said it is developing protocols with participating governments on how to quickly resolve any alarms, possibly including 'do not load' messages to ocean carriers.

   The limited rollout of Secure Freight essentially expands the scope of the existing Container Security Initiative to cover radiation scans of more containers headed to the United States. Under CSI, only suspicious containers flagged by CBP after mining shipping data and intelligence are inspected by host governments in 50 ports using large-scale X-ray style scanners and radiation detectors. The Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration is assisting some governments by loaning and installing radiation detectors through the Megaports Initiative. Secure Freight would move up the detection reads ahead of, instead of after, the targeting analysis every container undergoes as part of the risk management system for container inspections.

   DHS said it is continuing its work with Hutchison Port Holdings on an integrated scanning system at the Port of Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government is also actively considering participating in the Secure Freight Initiative, it said.

   DHS will spend $30 million to fund detection equipment and the NNSA will contribute $30 million to fund the installation of the monitors.

   The World Shipping Council, which represents ocean carriers in the United States, issued a statement supporting DHS's efforts to create an international network of container scanning capabilities. It commended DHS for its phased approach so that lessons learned can be applied to subsequent phases and minimize trade disruptions.

   Pakistan is also assisting CBP by participating in a pilot project at the Port of Qasim to send live video feeds of the cargo exam process as a quality assurance measure. The Port of Qasim handles about 3,000 U.S.-bound containers a year.

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