Zero Tolerance – the saga of 100% scanning continues

August 27, 2011 — Leave a comment

Various opinions on this subject have been voiced over the last 3 years – the threat of sea and airborne cargo being used as ‘a delivery mechanism’ for a nuclear or terrorist attack. Besides the US calling for 100% scanning of containerised cargoes at point of origin, the reality remains that less than 4% of seaborne containers are being scanned at port of departure.

Post 9/11, the US was quick to initiate a multi-layered approach to securing America against another terrorist attack. This entailed a number of domestic and extra-territorial programmes. At the bottom of each of these lies an authoritarian distrust or question mark against the integrity of entities involved in the international supply chain. In as much as these modern-day Customs’ initiatives aim to deal with tangible and intangible threats, one can begin to question the motives used by many governments and organisations in introducing such programs.

Last year, the US postponed it’s requirement for 100% scanning of inbound boxes by at least two years because of technical and funding issues. (Lets not forget the massive outcry from foreign countries of origin who envisaged their own ports coming to a standstill). The 2014 deadline, as it stands, would require any container heading to the US to be scanned for conventional as well as radioactive threats before being loaded at a foreign port.

However, in June 2011, US Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano went on record saying that 100% scanning was “probably not the best way to go”. She said Congress was considering a “more layered approach” to container security, a combined system of scanning, data and risk analysis, physical checks and closer co-operation with ports and countries around the world.

Could it be that the promise of mega-deals for the ‘security industry’ is under serious threat given limited success and results from these ‘supply chain’ initiatives? One hears less and less about the awarding of multi-million dollar contracts for non-intrusive equipment. Funding is a big issue, and no less an issue is the question mark which countries of origin have regarding the direct intrusion these US-domestic policies have on their local economies and supply chains.

The WCO went a long way in accommodating and addressing the question of international terrorism which in the view of many helped curbed the ‘paranoia’ which prevailed post 9/11. Still the question of motive and opportunity spurred several organisations and governments to support the many bilateral developments that ensued. The EU Commission for one was infuriated by the bilateral overtures of the CBP and EU Custom’s administrations before diplomatic agreement prevailed.

The bottom line is that a nation’s domestic policy overrides that of the wants and whims of the more affluent states. Several donor programs nowadays offer ‘security equipment’ free of charge to countries packaged with ‘capacity building programmes’ to instil the desired mentality of the donor country or agency. Traditional forms of customs control and human initiative/intuition are being cast out on the trash heap as primitive everywhere, yet there is little to show for the billions of dollars spent on anti-terrorism measures year after year. However, reading the article – Zero Tolerance – you get the impression of a little desperation on the part of the engineers and manufacturers of nuclear based security equipment – almost wishing a further nuclear calamity to prove their point! Source of article: www.portstrategy.com

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