Secure Freight pilot analyzes scan-all impact
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is already gathering feedback on the technical performance and commercial impact of its Secure Freight Initiative in preparation for reporting results of the pilot program to Congress in April, Richard DiNucci, the program’s director, said Friday.
Congress one year ago mandated the Department of Homeland Security to conduct one-year trials at three foreign ports of systems capable of imaging the contents of containers and detecting whether they emit radiation to prevent weapons of mass destruction from being smuggled into the United States through commercial channels.
The experimental effort to scan 100 percent of cargo containers is underway at Port Qasim near Karachi, Pakistan; Puerto Cortes in Honduras and Southampton, United Kingdom. The ports were selected because of their limited volumes in order to make the test process manageable. The tests were designed to study the feasibility of scanning all containers, but Congress did not wait for the results before ordering in July that all containers destined for the United States undergo non-intrusive technical exams by 2012.
CBP is evaluating the quality and timeliness of the data feeds from the machines it receives at its National Targeting Center, the container flows as trucks are funneled through gates with the drive-by equipment, environmental effects on the inspection equipment and other factors to assess the impact of 100 percent scanning on trade and Customs operations.
As part of the information gathering process, CBP has sent teams out to interview terminal operators and ocean carriers and also plans to survey shippers who move cargo through the pilot ports, DiNucci said during a briefing for the Commercial Operations Advisory Committee in Washington.
The DHS went beyond the congressional mandate and will test the scan-all approach in four high-volume ports on a limited basis. Automated inspections will take place at single terminals at:
' The Port of Busan, South Korea,
' Salalah, Oman.
' Hong Kong.
CBP will use those test cases to observe how scanning works in different operating environments with different cargo flows and different customer service requirements, DiNucci noted.
The Port of Singapore, for example, guarantees customers that it will move cargo within specified periods of time.
Some of the challenges faced by the program so far include 115' temperatures in Pakistan that cause problems with the images and rainy conditions in Honduras that require the equipment to dry out before X-ray or gamma ray pictures can be taken, DiNucci said, repeating congressional testimony by DHS last month.
CBP likely will engage an independent advisory board of economists to make sure it properly identifies and assesses all the performance metrics, DiNucci said. ' Eric Kulisch