U.S. Partners with Six Nations for Sea Freight Security
USINFO Staff Writer
Washington - The United States will work with six nations in Asia, Europe and the Americas to improve port security and prevent nuclear-related smuggling by using advanced detection tools to scan containers for nuclear and radiological materials.
The Secure Freight Initiative - unveiled December 7 and supported by the departments of Homeland Security, Energy, State and others - will spend $60 million to put sophisticated detection equipment in key ports to protect international commerce from the threat of nuclear weapons or the spread of radioactive contamination from an exploding "dirty bomb," according to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said deploying and using better detection methods will help “prevent nuclear devices from being smuggled into the United States or partner countries.”
Specialized X-ray equipment and optical scanners will be sent to Pakistan’s Port Qasim and Honduras' Puerto Cortes in February 2007. By summer 2007, detection equipment will be operating in the British port of Southampton. The effort will expand later in 2007 to South Korea’s Port Busan, Oman's Port Salalah and the Port of Singapore.
Chertoff said the initiative reflects a vision “to work multilaterally with our partners all around the world” to provide maritime security and facilitate international commerce. A test program of a similar system also is under way in the Port of Hong Kong.
PARTNERSHIPS FOR SAFE PORTS
Implementing the Secure Freight Initiative will address congressional requirements - established by the Safe Ports Act of 2006 - to scan 100 percent of the U.S.-bound cargo located in at least three overseas ports. (See related article.)
Chertoff said the government-to-government and public-private sector partnerships involved in this initiative set “a perfect example of an area in which global cooperation and international activity can raise security standards and trade efficiency.”
Speaking at his headquarters to diplomats, shipping representatives and reporters, Chertoff emphasized the goal of facilitating world trade while providing an inhospitable environment for terrorists attempting to use dangerous nuclear materials.
Under Secretary of State Robert Joseph said the initiative will add an important dimension to the partners’ ability to detect the shipment of fissile or radioactive materials. Nations have an international responsibility to implement measures to defend against the nuclear terrorism threat, he said. (See related article.)
The equipment bound for the ports will scan for radioactivity as well as concealed suspicious cargo. Under Secretary of Energy Linton Brooks said the initiative “will lead to strengthening the overall security of the global supply chain.”
Brooks said the initiative builds on earlier efforts to improve nuclear security on Russia’s borders as well as other programs under way such as the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Megaports Initiative and Homeland Security’s Container Security Initiative. (See related article.)
Separately, U.S. Customs and Border Control announced December 7 that the United States and Colombia will work together to prevent nuclear material from being smuggled into U.S. ports. Border Control Commissioner W. Ralph Basham said securing global trade is a major priority. Advanced technological equipment and more secure containers will be used in the Port of Cartagena to screen high-risk shipments, deter smuggling and promote security.
The press release announcing the U.S.-Colombia agreement is posted on the Customs and Border Control Web site.