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MIK - Container Security

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    The US is set to announce its blueprint for making the passage of goods and people more secure according the the article below. June 26 could be an important day for MIK. Singapore has recently signed up to CSI and Hong Kong is also considering joining.

    Plan Would Prevent Terrorist Use Of Shipping Containers
    By Patrick Goodenough
    CNSNews.com Pacific Rim Bureau Chief
    June 07, 2002

    Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - An ambitious anti-terrorism security plan to screen U.S.-bound freight containers at their ports of origin has moved up a gear, with one of the world's largest ports agreeing to participate and another considering doing so.

    The program, called the Container Security Initiative (CSI) was first announced by the U.S. Customs last January, as part of the agency's response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

    Singapore this week agreed to allow U.S. Customs officials to help their local counterparts screen high-risk containers heading for the more than 300 U.S. ports of entry.

    And the government of Hong Kong said in a statement released Friday that its officials are discussing with U.S. customs officials the possibility of a pilot program there.

    Visiting U.S. Customs officials have invited Hong Kong to send representatives to inspect the program at a couple of American ports.

    "Hong Kong supports the goals of the CSI, we would like to see how the pilot run actually operates ... before taking any further steps," said a spokesman for the Chinese territory's Commerce and Industry Bureau.

    Under the CSI, containers destined for the U.S. that are thought to carry a high risk of being exploited by terrorists to smuggle themselves or weapons -- especially weapons of mass destruction -- into the country are to be pre-screened before departing the port of loading.

    U.S. Customs commissioner Robert Bonner has in a number of speeches this year drawn attention to a case in which Italian officials found an Egyptian stowaway inside a container routed for Canada, along with a bed, toilet and suspicious documentation including airport security passes.

    Some 90 percent of all port cargo is today containerized, and almost six million containers land at U.S. ports annually. Only a small proportion are currently checked by customs officials.

    Before this week's developments at the two Asian ports, Canada was the only country to have signed onto the CSI.

    Since March 2002, U.S. Customs inspectors have been deployed at Montreal, Halifax, and Vancouver ports, while Canadian officials have been placed at Seattle, Tacoma and Newark, to check transit containers bound for Canada.

    But more than half of the shipping container traffic entering the U.S. comes from just 10 "megaports," with Asia's Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai and Kaohsiung in Taiwan at the top of the list.

    About 1.6 million containers head for the U.S. each year from Hong Kong's busy container terminals, while about 330,000 containers entered the U.S. from Singapore last year.

    The U.S. says it's not only in America's interests to have the screening program in place in foreign ports.

    The U.S. consul-general in Hong Kong, Michael Klosson, was quoted as telling the American Chamber of Commerce this week that no port would want weapons of mass destruction hidden in containers to move through it.

    Yet there are concerns about how stepped-up security measures could affect the flow of goods.

    The Hong Kong government spokesman said the territory was willing to cooperate with the U.S. in practical steps to combat terrorism, "while paying due regard to the operational efficiency" of its ports.

    Because of the enormous amount of time it would take to inspect every container, customs officials rely on various methods to identify potentially high-risk ones. These include intelligence, close monitoring of inventories to look for unusual movements or cargoes, and the use of radiation monitors and drive-through X-ray machines.

    Singapore's government said it welcomed the opportunity to cooperate in this way.

    "The CSI is an additional measure which will enhance Singapore's security to prevent the possibility of a terrorist attack using shipping containers," the island state's Transport Ministry said in a statement.

    Bonner said in a statement Singapore's decision to join the initiative would provide security not just for the U.S. and Singapore, but also for "the global trading system as a whole."

    Bonner has argued that, apart from the incident itself, any "catastrophic event involving sea containers" could be devastating to the global economy, with trade grinding to a halt as ports shut down to consider tighter security measures.

    "Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda terrorist network have vowed to cripple the U.S. and world economy," the U.S. Customs says on its website.

    "More than half of all goods that enter the United States arrive by oceangoing cargo containers. A terrorist attack using a sea container would prove detrimental to this portion of the global trading system, by bringing the worldwide movement and processing of oceangoing cargo containers to a halt."

    At a summit to be held in Alberta, Canada, beginning on June 26, the Group of Eight major industrialized nations will reportedly consider a U.S. proposal aimed at making the passage of goods and people more secure, including an improvement in inspections of freight containers

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