UK Forwarders ‘Not Surprised’ by US Climbdown on 100% Container Scanning

According to John O’Connell, Director – Trade Services at the British International Freight Association (BIFA) – - it was “hardly surprising” to hear the recent news that the US Department for Homeland Security (DHS) would effectively not be able to meet its 2012 deadline to implement its goal of 100 percent inbound container scanning.

London, United Kingdom, December 16, 2009 --( Mr O’Connell said: “As BIFA has said repeatedly, the DHS has consistently underestimated the enormity of the task in hand relative to the costs both to the US Government and those of foreign governments, as well as, importantly, the limited ability of contemporary screening technology to penetrate dense cargo, or large quantities of cargo in shipping containers.

“Couple this to the fact, that by the DHS’ own calculations, some 86 percent of cargo shipped to the USA originates from only 58 of more than 700 global ports, and there is clearly a compelling argument to scale down their unrealistic aspirations.”

BIFA’s comments are in response to the recent news that US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said her department would be unable to meet a congressionally-mandated 2012 deadline for scanning all US-bound ship cargo for potential WMD ingredients.

As a result of insufficient technology and the high expense associated with scanning the 10 million cargo containers that enter the country annually, DHS requested an extension of the congressionally imposed deadline.

Adds Mr O’Connell: "We have always said that expanding screening with available technology would slow the flow of commerce and drive up costs to consumers without bringing significant security benefits. These thoughts were echoed in the testimony made by Janet Napolitano to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

“Rather than pushing back the deadline for 100 percent screening, as requested by DHS, the US Government ought to undertake a pragmatic review of the whole initiative and create a revised programme on a risk assessed, commercially practical and technologically feasible basis.”

British International Freight Association
Ian Matheson
+44 (0)1689 860660