According to USA Today, the Department of Homeland Security “will not meet a 2012 deadline set by Congress to scan the contents of every cargo container headed to U.S. ports.” USA Today also reports:
“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” says Frank Vargo of the National Association of Manufacturers. He says Chertoff’s plan will slow trade and could cost the industry as much as $20 billion a year. “It will result in a two-day — maybe a five-day — delay before that container (is cleared) and can be loaded onto a ship.”
Security experts agree that 100% scanning would be very difficult to achieve. “It’s not practical, and there’s no threat that justifies it,” says James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
Earlier this year Carafano summarized results of the Congressional mandated Secure Freight Initiative (SFI) test which evaluated the feasibility of scanning 100 percent of the over 11 million oceangoing containers shipped annually to the United States:
While the SFI demonstrated that 100 percent scanning of containers bound for the United States from low-volume, “high risk” ports such as Qasim in Pakistan was feasible, the assessment raised serious questions about the costs and delays that would be caused by implementing the measure at larger ports. For instance, ports like Hong Kong and Singapore not only deal with much larger volumes, but often transship cargo from waterside to landside, or even from ship to ship. Hong Kong alone might have to add $80 million in infrastructure just to accommodate screening.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), which works for Congress, identified the following nine major problem areas in the mandate:
- Workforce planning;
- Host nation examination practices;
- Measuring the program’s performance;
- Resource (cost) responsibilities;
- Logistics of space constraints at ports;
- Technology and infrastructure;
- Use and ownership of data when foreign seaports are involved;
- Consistency with risk management; and
- Reciprocity and trade concerns.