Customs to expand foreign port screening

NEW YORK CITY — The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection in the next year plans to more than double the number of foreign ports where high-risk containers are screened before departing for the United States.

The Container Security Initiative was created in January 2002 to prevent weapons of mass destruction from getting into the supply chain. As part of the U.S. initiative to increase maritime security worldwide, the top 19 mega-ports outside the United States have agreed to inspect U.S.-bound containers before they're shipped out.

A total of 47 ports will be taking part in the program by this time next year, said Douglas Browning, the deputy commissioner for Customs and Border Protection, which is part of the Homeland Security Department.

"There is no question that CSI has been among the most effective initiatives we have undertaken to shore up security at our borders," Browning told the second day of the U.S. Maritime Security Expo meeting here.

In addition, under another maritime program — C-TPAT, or the Customs-Trade Partnership against Terrorism — more than 4,000 companies have agreed to take steps to improve the security of their shipments and supply chain, Browning said. C-TPAT participants get a fast lane for their products through land and sea borders.

Homeland Security officials plan to expand C-TPAT to include foreign manufacturers and shippers.

"Our mission is to improve security at as many points in the global supply chain as possible," he said.

In a related move to expand maritime security, Canada plans to implement a regulation early next year requiring shippers to electronically transmit manifest information on maritime containers 24 hours before leaving a foreign port, Browning said. Homeland Security officials are talking with Mexico and the European Union about implementing the 24-hour rule.

Electronic manifest requirements are already in effect for U.S. ports. Since the rule was implemented for cargo arriving in the United States, more than seven million manifests have been inspected and 600 manifests have been denied.

"Through these strategies — expanding our zone of security, the deployment of new technologies at our ports, mobilizing our resources and enhancing our data collection — we have been able to confront the threat of terrorism," Browning said.

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