Sunday, April 02, 2006

Congress & ports... lots of bill demands and little knowledge

Shippers fear port security measures would disrupt commerce
By Chris Strohm, Congress Daily, appearing on

My fears of an ill-informed Congress, leaping to make us "safe" with their new port security measures as a response to their xenophobia over DP World is shared... not only by the shipping industry, but the retailing industry as well.

Industry experts worry that new regulations for screening and inspecting cargo could place odious and costly requirements on shippers, and they are urging lawmakers to be cautious.

"If you delay the supply chain to the extent that prices go up and the cost of doing business with America is too high, and you have several shipping companies that can't upgrade their security, then the terrorists have won," said Noel Cunningham, a principal at The Marsec Group, which consults maritime companies and port operators.

And dat ain't all.... that increased cost is going to be passed along to guess who... we the consumers, of course.

"Subjecting 100 percent of all containers to full inspection is neither feasible nor logical," said Christopher Koch, president and chief executive officer of the World Shipping Council, which represents more than 40 of the world's largest shipping companies. He said such a requirement would be "enormously expensive" and disrupt global trade.

Another organization, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, sent a letter to every member of Congress earlier this month urging them to move with careful deliberation and become fully educated on the issues before passing legislation. (emphasis mine).

Boyo... I bet those elitists really got their nose out of shape at those letters! LOL But so true, so true. They killed the P&O/DP World deal for the US assets out of ignorance. They will follow up with the same lack of attention to research and detail.

BTW, the RILA is no small potatos. They represent more that 400 retail businesses, including Best Buy, Home Depot, Targets and Walmart. Just these four alone represent $1.4 trillion in retails sales annually in the US.

And, as usual, problem is compounded by vague bill language by the legislators - using terms but with no definitions of the terms... such as scan and screen and inspect. Just what does that entail?

Fact is, no matter what it entails, it will still slow the shipping process.

Two bills that have been gaining the most congressional support -- a Senate measure introduced by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Appropriations Transportation-Treasury Subcommittee ranking member Patty Murray, D-Wash., and a House bill introduced by Homeland Security Economic Security Subcommittee Chairman Dan Lungren, R-Calif., and Intelligence ranking member Jane Harman, D-Calif. -- would require the Homeland Security Department to develop a plan within 90 days for the deployment of radiation detection equipment at all U.S. ports of entry.

On the other hand, legislation introduced by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Chairman Norm Coleman, R-Minn., would require the Homeland Security Department to develop a strategy for scanning all inbound containers. Coleman plans to kick off a series of hearings on security and the "global supply-chain" on Tuesday.


Homeland Security officials say they will inspect a higher percentage if it is necessary. Industry officials generally agree that Homeland Security is using the right strategy, but acknowledge more could be done.

"It's not so much the number, it's the quality of the inspection that's important," Cunningham said. The objective should be to increase the non-intrusive screening of cargo at foreign ports, primarily with X-ray machines, backed up by more random physical inspections of containers, he added.

Industry experts point to a new system being tested in Hong Kong as an example of what might work. Through the Integrated Container Inspection System, every container is put through a gamma-ray scanning machine and a radiation portal. Scanned images are then stored in a database, where they can be reviewed by inspectors.

The system is still in its infancy, however. It is only used at two terminals and inspectors are not yet regularly reviewing the scanned images.

Koch believes the Hong Kong system holds promise. But he said the model raises an important question: Will the U.S. government and Congress trust foreign countries and foreign port operators to install the necessary screening equipment, and then share the information with U.S. inspectors?

I think the answer to the last statement in the above paragraph has already been revealed to us by Congress themselves. They will apparently trust foreign countries, as they have been doing with the Chinese since the 90s, as long as they aren't Arab.

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