Non-Intrusive Inspection capability – now in the Port of Cape Town

South African Customs has introduced non- intrusive inspection (NII) capability at the Port of Cape Town. The recent completion of an impressive relocatable scanner facility within the port precinct will now afford state of the art inspection services for customs targeted consignments for inspection. This is the third X-Ray scanner installed and operated by the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

In March 2008, a mobile scanner was implemented at Durban Container Terminal. More recently, a relocatable X-Ray Scanner was implemented adjacent to the container terminal in Durban to allow for improved capacity and efficiency.

The new facility in Cape Town not only extends customs risk and enforcement capability in the use of such technology but acts as a deterrent against any possible threat posed by international cargoes entering or leaving the country’s ports of entry.

In addition to the new x-ray inspection hardware, SARS has developed bespoke support to allow scanned images to be reviewed remotely – away from the port area – affording customs increased flexibility, allowing image analysis experts elsewhere in the country to provide almost real-time analysis and support for the inspection team. The approach also meets SARS differentiated inspection case methodology which ensures that case finalization and cargo release does not rest with a single customs official.

Remote screening analysis is a practice that has already been pioneered in Europe with great effectiveness in recent years.

The benefit of non-intrusive inspection (NII) allows customs to ‘see whats inside’ the container, vehicle or tanker without having to break the seal. All of this can be done in a few minutes. It forms part of Customs overall approach to minimise the time taken to conduct a customs intervention and latent cost, damage and theft which plague conventional physical inspection of cargoes.

The new inspection site also enables SARS to increase its participation and effectiveness in the US Container Security Initiative (CSI) which was launched in Durban, December 2003. Under the CSI Agreement, SARS officials together with US Customs & Border Protection Agency (USCBP) officials – co-located at the Port of Durban – analyze and mitigate risks relating to any containerised cargo destined to ports in the United States.

Credit to Indresan Reddy (Customs Business Systems) for the photographs.

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Protecting U.S.-Bound Container Cargoes

Securing US Cargo - Infographic by Journal of Commerce (Click to enlarge)

Securing US Cargo – Infographic by Journal of Commerce (Click to enlarge)

The Journal of Commerce provides a very useful infographic on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s efforts and initiatives in securing US – cargoes from foreign ports. While the Container Security Initiative (CSI) was one of the very first post 9/11 security initiatives it has since been supported by a number of other partnership programs involving other customs agencies and the US trade community. These have spawned many of the policies and guidelines being adopted by Customs agencies around the world where the WCO has ‘formulated’ and ‘standardised’ such requirements for broader international use, in conjunction with capacity building programs.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has published a report, “DHS Could Improve Cargo Security by Periodically Assessing Risks From Foreign Ports,” recommending that U.S. Customs and Border Protection should continually update and expand its Container Security Initiative.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, CBP has taken steps to reduce vulnerabilities associated with U.S.-bound cargo container shipments by placing customs officials at foreign seaports to determine whether U.S.-bound shipments from those ports pose a risk of containing weapons of mass destruction or other terrorist contraband. While cargo from foreign ports and ships is critical to the U.S. economy, it can also be exploited by terrorists.

When CSI was launched in 2002, CBP initially selected 23 CSI ports largely on the basis of the volume of U.S.-bound container cargo, but it increased the number of risk factors in selected additional ports as it expanded the CSI program beginning in 2003. Through 2007, CBP added 35 ports to the CSI program based on additional criteria, such as strategic threat factors and diplomatic or political considerations. As of July 2013, CBP was coordinating targeting of U.S.-bound cargo container shipments with 61 foreign ports in 34 countries.

Cargo shipment data from PIERS, JOC’s sister publication, supports the GAO’s view that the U.S. needs to update and expand CSI in order to continue effectively monitoring incoming cargo. In particular, it appears the U.S. should form new CSI partnerships with Vietnam and India, which are the Top 2 exporters to the U.S. with no established CSI partnerships.

Although Vietnam is “relatively stable” in terms of its government, it is geographically close to Laos and Cambodia, and is therefore risky because of transshipment issues, according to Susan Kohn Ross, an attorney with Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp in Los Angeles. She also noted there has been a trend of manufacturers moving from China to Vietnam recently, as labor has become more expensive in China, resulting in more Vietnamese exports to the U.S.

Meanwhile, local uprisings in India recently have increased the country’s vulnerabilities to terrorist plans, despite the nation’s stable government, Ross said. India’s proximity to Pakistan also exposes it to terrorist groups, such as al-Qaida and the Taliban, and because Pakistan already has an established CSI partnership, terrorists might find it easier to smuggle cargo via India, she explained.

Conversely, if budgetary constraints ever force the CSI program to condense its monitoring, then CSI partnerships could perhaps be downgraded or eliminated entirely with the governments of Jamaica, Oman and Greece, which are the smallest exporters to the U.S. with established CSI connections, according to PIERS.

However, expanding and even contracting the CSI program present challenges. For example, CBP officials said in the GAO report that it is difficult to close CSI ports because removing the program from a country might negatively affect U.S. relations with the host government.

Furthermore, implementing a CSI partnership in a country exposes jurisdictional issues and regulatory differences, Ross said. For instance, the U.S. considers drugs to be a national security issue, but that’s not always the case in other countries, so prioritization of monitoring has to be worked out. Issues like which nation should pay for customs officers to be trained, or who should fix scanning equipment when it breaks, also must be resolved.

Ross further explained that it is “highly unlikely” that the federal government will ever expand CSI to cover 100 percent of all U.S. imports, an idea that CBP considered in 2009, but never implemented because of budget constraints. She said that scanning equipment is not advanced enough to expeditiously monitor all U.S.-bound cargo, and not all countries would even be willing to put CSI in place anyway.

Ultimately, nothing is foolproof, and if terrorists really wanted to wreak havoc on the U.S., they could probably more easily attack the U.S. through its borders, via Canada and Mexico, Ross said. However, CSI acts as an important deterrent, limiting the number of chances a terrorist has to harm to the U.S. Source: www.joc.com

CBP Agrees to Update Risk Assessments at Foreign Ports

US Customs CSI Inspection in the Port of Durban, South Africa

US Customs CSI Inspection in the Port of Durban, South Africa

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has not assessed risks at select foreign ports with U.S.-bound shipments since 2005, part of a string of failures that has left key ports without a CBP presence, the Government Accountability Office says. (Hmm, never mind the impact caused to Customs administration in the host countries……)

In examining CBP’s Container Security Initiative program, GAO found that the agency developed a model for ranking additional seaports according to risk in 2009, but never implemented it because of budget cuts, according to the report.

GAO applied that risk model to 2012 cargo shipment data and found that the CSI program had no presence at about half the ports CSP found high risk. Meanwhile, 20 percent of existing CSI program ports were at lower-risk locations, according to the findings (.pdf).

Although GAO acknowledged host countries are not always willing to accommodate a CSI presence, and that removal of a CSI presence can negatively affect diplomatic relations, auditors said periodic assessments of cargo shipped from foreign ports could help CBP better guard against terror-related shipments.

Although there have been no known incidents of cargo containers being used to transport WMD, the maritime supply chain remains vulnerable to attacks. We recognize that it may not be possible to include all of the higher-risk ports in CSI because CSI requires the cooperation of sovereign foreign governments.

To better ensure the effectiveness of the CSI program, GAO recommends that the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to periodically assess the supply chain security risks from all foreign ports that ship cargo to the United States and use the results of these risk assessments to (1) inform any future expansion of CSI to additional locations and (2) determine whether changes need to be made to existing CSI ports and make adjustments as appropriate and feasible.

Such assessments “would help ensure that CBP is allocating its resources to provide the greatest possible coverage of high-risk cargo to best mitigate the risk of importing weapons of mass destruction or other terrorist contraband into the United States through the maritime supply chain,” GAO said.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concurred with the recommendation and said CBP would complete its first assessment by Aug. 12, 2014. To access or download the GAO Report on CSI, Click Here! Source: US Government Accounting Office

Foreign Ports That CBP Coordinates with Regarding Maritime Container Shipment Examinations, as of July 2013

Foreign Ports That CBP Coordinates with Regarding Maritime Container Shipment Examinations, as of July 2013 (Table: GAO)