Increased container inspection won't boost security

Physically inspecting 900,000 inbound cargo containers — 10% of the annual 9 million containers — won't increase maritime security but will cause supply chain delays, says Earl Agron, vice president, security with APL (www.apl.com), a global container transportation company.

Agron notes that to increase the present physical inspection rate to 10% of inbound containers would call for between 6,000 and 7,000 additional customs officers.

"A 10% physical exam rate would be extremely expensive and would cause unacceptable delays to the international supply chain," he says. "That's why we support the current system, which provides security with less expense and delay"

Currently, customs officers using sensing equipment externally examine some 5% to 6% of inbound containers. Of those, few require opening and searching. Shipping information for 100% of inbound containers is now reviewed by the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. Agron notes that it's not how many boxes are physically inspected, but which boxes.

In case of a catastrophic act on a seaport, public and private sector collaboration will be needed to re-start U.S. ports. "It's important that everyone involved understand the expectations," Agron states, "including shippers, carriers, our trading partners and U.S. authorities. Otherwise, we risk prolonging a shutdown and magnifying the economic ripple effects of a terrorist act."

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