Secretary Chertoff says port security is not an issue of the identity of a particular terminal operator. “It’s about increasing the level of security across an entire system.”
He acknowledged that there is more to do, but at the same time, said a lot of work has already been done.
Chertoff told a press conference “By the end of this year, we will have approximately two-thirds of the container cargo that comes through our ports going through radiation portal monitors to detect radiation. Our Overseas Container Security Initiative, which begins the process of screening and inspecting containers at the point overseas when they are loaded, before they actually get to the U.S., will be covering approximately two-thirds of the container cargo coming into the country. So those are some very significant steps forward, dramatic increases from where we were two years ago.”
There is a layered system in which Customs and Border Protection begins analyzing cargo well before it actually gets on the ship. The Coast Guard gets crew lists and has the identity of all the significant ships coming into U.S. ports. Those ships are checked and if necessary, they are boarded.
When a ship arrives at a US port, if the cargo has not been inspected at the point of departure and they have reason to believe there’s a high risk attached to a particular container, it is screened using radiation monitors and X-ray machines. Containers are opened.
Homeland Security is looking to stretch out the security envelope further down into the origination of the supply chain.
“That means we are evaluating how we can get more information at an earlier stage of the supply chain process about what is going in those containers. We’re looking at technology that will be better sealing for containers, that will track the packages that go into the containers.”
Secretary Chertoff is to review a system in Hong Kong in a few weeks, which seems to have some promise to inspect and screen cargo before it is loaded.
Work on the transportation workers security card has been slow, but the Secretary anticipates announcing interim steps to raise the level of security for those who have access to U.S. ports, then quickly getting to background-checked workers with secure cards.