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24/12/2004 | A leaked National Cargo Security Strategy White Paper draft seeks to answer: "Who’s in charge?"

Martin Edwin Andersen

A draft of a National Cargo Security Strategy White Paper, which circulated at the Cargo Security Summit that was convened in Washington last week to solicit comments from the maritime shipping industry on critical supply chain issues, admits that “jurisdictional questions” remain as to who in government has primary responsibility for cargo security.

 

The draft, which was leaked to the public earlier this week, noted that: “During the two years since (the Department of Homeland Security) was established, (overlapping jurisdictions) have frequently led to questions of ‘who’s in charge?’ from industry and government partners.”

"This strategic planning effort will clarify any remaining jurisdictional questions,” it added. The welter of responsibilities in the cargo security area in DHS has puts primary responsibility for inspections with the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, while the U.S. Coast Guard takes the lead on ship and port security.

The Transportation Security Administration also plays a role, albeit less well defined, in the development of maritime security policies.

The cargo security summit, held at Georgetown University Dec. 16-17, came after repeated entreaties to the Department of Homeland Security by the maritime shipping industry to clearly spell out both government and private sector responsibilities for cargo security.

Industry spokesmen have demanded that DHS spell out not only which agency is in charge of creating day-to-day cargo security rules, but also to identify the office that would be in charge of contingency plans following a terrorist attack.

"We have not got, nor heard of, any proposed plans of what happens if there is an incident,” Peter H. Powell, chairman of the board of the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America, told Port Security News earlier this month. (http://portsecuritynews.com/news/templates/registered.asp?articleid=86&zoneid=6)

"In other words, if the ports are closed down, who has the responsibility for the closing of ports, and, if there is an incident, for how long will the ports be closed?” Powell asked. “What cargoes will they let in, (and) will the local ports that are not affected allow anybody to come into their facilities? That game plan or process certainly has not been defined.”

In the draft White Paper, DHS asks its component agencies “to begin the development of protocols for resumption of trade ... and ensuring trade lanes are restored as quickly as possible if we sustain an attack on supply chain infrastructure.”

The draft also calls for the quick implementation of a requirement for using high-security mechanical seals on the doors of all inbound shipping containers, a proposal that originally came from the cargo industry itself.

However, as Powell had reported in Port Security News on Dec. 6, the technology for securing the containers is still a work-in-progress.

"The technology improvements are going to be very important,” Powell said, “because I do think that ultimately they will come up with the electronic means to be able to accomplish—what is in the container, where is the container, in whose possession is it? Plus, verifying seals and non-interdiction.

"But I think it is a few years away (even though) there are improvements every day.”

DHS’ draft strategy noted that a “high potential risk” that terrorists might seek use shipping containers to carry out their attacks.

"Cargo has been and continues to be routinely misused in order to smuggle drugs, contraband goods and even people,” it said. “Vulnerabilities in the shipping process that facilitate the transport of illegal commodities may also facilitate the work of a terrorist.”

A final cargo security strategy is expected to be issued later next year. Meanwhile, cargo industry executives have until the end of the month to submit comments on the draft to the federally-funded Homeland Security Institute.

Martin Edwin Andersen (Managing Editor, Port Security News ) can be reached via Mick_Andersen@portsecuritynews.com

Copyright © 2004 Port Security News. All rights reserved.

Port Security News (Estados Unidos)

 


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