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American Shipper

Secure Freight Initiative kicks off in Qasim

Secure Freight Initiative kicks off in Qasim

   The United States and Pakistan officially launched Wednesday a pilot program at Port Qasim designed to test the ability of an integrated system for cargo content scanning and radiation detection to inspect all containers prior to departure to the United States.

   Port Qasim is one of six prototype locations participating in the Department of Homeland Security's Secure Freight Initiative. Other test sites include Port Cortes, Honduras, which came online a few weeks ago, and Southampton, England, which is scheduled to begin automated inspections sometime this summer.

   Congress mandated the Secure Freight Initiative in last year's SAFE Port Act. DHS is expected to report results of the effort to Congress sometime in the first quarter of 2008.

      The Port Qasim test is different than the others in that images and radiation data will be electronically transmitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection's National Targeting Center, where officers will make determinations about whether a cargo box should be physically inspected. Alarms in other ports will be resolved by CBP and foreign customers officers on the ground.

   'Data signals from both the first and second radiation portal monitors and the X-ray imaging system were received at the National Targeting Center in the United States. Alarms were tested and the first container was processed, which did not activate alarms. No notification issues were raised. We now begin ramping up capabilities to scan all U.S.-bound containers,' said Al Gina, executive director of the Secure Freight Initiative, in a news release issued by CBP.

   CBP and Pakistani officials have been conducting limited test runs of the system for several weeks, but this week's announcement marks the start of full operational testing.

   DHS announced in mid-April that operational testing was underway at Port Cortes, but members of the House Homeland Security Committee were underwhelmed when they visited the port to inaugurate full-scale inspections.

   'I had hoped to see a more robust rollout of this program. Instead my colleagues and I were greeted with paint fumes,' said Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., in a statement last week. 'The paint was literally still drying when we arrived at the port. The SAFE Port Act mandated that the Secure Freight Initiative ports be fully operational by Oct. 1, 2007. I am now concerned that the department will not meet this deadline.'

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