Opposition Gathers to H.R. 1 Security Regulations

After first agreeing with the intent of Congress that "more can and should be done to secure our borders and supply chains," the International Cargo Security Council (ICSC, www.cargosecurity.com) stated that the first bill proposed and passed by the new Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives would "impose additional cost burdens on the U.S. economy, negatively impacting businesses— both small and large—with the establishment of cargo security and inspection protocols that rely on unproven technologies and that do not insure security improvements that are commensurate with the expenses incurred."

The ICSC further pointed out that inspection provisions may complicate compliance with the recently enacted Safe Ports Act. Saying it strongly opposed provisions requiring 100% inspection of ocean containers and air cargo entering the United States, the ICSC said the proposal would add uncertainty and cost to the international supply chain, severely impacting the flow of legitimate trade but with little demonstrable improvement in security.

While supporting the intent of H.R. 1, a White House Statement of Administration Policy also takes to task the cargo inspection requirements. "While the Administration supports the underlying intent of H.R. 1, the Administration has serious concerns with several of the bill's provisions and cannot support House passage of the bill in its current form," said the statement issued shortly after the U.S. House of Representatives proposed and passed H.R. 1, "Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007." The bill, which was passed without going through the committee process, would require 100% inspection of air cargo on passenger aircraft and scanning of all ocean containers bound for U.S. ports.

Specifically, H.R. 1 would phase in inspection of air cargo carried on passenger aircraft on a schedule requiring 35% of cargo to be inspected by the end of fiscal 2007, 65% to be inspected by the end of fiscal 2008 and 100% inspection by the end of fiscal 2009. Ocean containers would have to be scanned and secured with a "smart seal" under the provisions of H.R. 1. Within three years of the Act becoming law, 100% of containers from countries that shipped more than 75,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) to the United States in 2005 would have to meet the requirements. Within five years, all origins would have to comply.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA, www.retail-leaders.org) echoed the sentiments that the provisions of the Safe Port Act passed in 2006 be implemented and be allowed to operate before considering further measures. RILA said its members were among the first to join in the voluntary Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism ( CTPAT) and other initiatives such as the Security Freight Initiative and they have actively worked to test and pilot various security technologies. The 9/11 Commission did not recommend 100% scanning of U.S.-bound cargo, said the RILA. Instead, it recommended a risk-based approach. The White House statement also voiced support for the risk-based approach and said it had worked to build a "layered defense."

"The Administration has invested heavily in managing the risk associated with the approximately ten million cargo containers that enter our seaports each year, and enhanced targeting and risk management will continue to be a key priority," said the White House statement. The White House also pointed out that efforts in 50 overseas ports to inspect high-risk containers already cover more than 80% of maritime containerized cargo "shipped to the homeland."

The Administration also opposes the bill's requirement to scan 100% of all U.S.-bound containers at overseas ports. "Imposing such requirements ignores two crucial facts. First, the United States cannot force foreign ports to provide 100% scanning. Second, the United States needs to be able to determine, for security-related and other reasons, that such scanning operations are not appropriate at a particular foreign port," said the Bush statement.

On the subject of air cargo inspections, the Airforwarders Association (www.airforwarders.org) said H.R. 1 requires technology that doesn't exist without disrupting the legitimate flow of commerce. Though the bill moved quickly under the House "First 100 Hours" initiative, it is expected to receive close scrutiny in the Senate.

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