Launched in 2002 the Container Security Initiative was envisaged as an extension to the secure boundaries of the United States of America

Launched in 2002 the Container Security Initiative was envisaged as an extension to the secure boundaries of the United States of America. Initially implemented as a pilot program it became permanent as part of the Security and Accountability for Every Port (SAFE Port) Act of 2006. The CSI is a multinational programmed at protecting the global transit of trade from potential terrorist use of shipping containers to deliver a weapon system capable of large scale destruction to within the borders of mainland USA. The CSI supports both the strategic goals of both the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S.A. Customs and Border Protection force. We shall examine the strategic goals of the CSI and how the principles of security apply to these goals and objectives.

The Container Security Initiative comprises of four core elements:
Establishing security criteria to identify high risk containers based on advance information.
Pre-screening those containers identified as high risk before they arrive at U.S ports.
Using technology to quickly pre-screen high risk containers, including radiation detectors and large scale x-ray and gamma ray machines.
Developing secure and “smart” containers.
To date the U.S Customs and Border Protection force is partnered with 58 foreign ports through which 80% of all maritime cargo bound for the United States of America passes. CBP teams located in these ports target and examine high-risk cargo before it is loaded on to a U.S. bound vessel. The deployment of these teams to work with foreign customs officials in the host country ports ensures the early warning and detection of any in bound threat. Incorporating the use of these teams ensures the principle of defence in depth and early warning, detecting and deterring a threat at distance, preventing the threat before it reaches the U.S. mainland, it also ensures the quality of the pre-screening of all at risk cargo prior to it’s loading.

When balancing the measures appropriate to the risk it is hard to quantify the probability of a terrorist plan to deliver a weapon of mass destruction to within the borders of the continental United States, while over the past decade we have seen a large flux of terrorist threats around the world, whether we will see another 9/11 size attack on the mainland United States is hard to assess without the higher levels of intelligence available to government agencies. In 2001 a container bound for Canada was discovered to have been converted to living quarters, including a bed, heating, water and toilet facilities. The container was discovered in the Italian port of Gioia Tauro when it’s “stowaway” occupant attempted to widen ventilation holes while port staff where nearby. The occupant, Rizik Amid Farid, was suspected Al Qaeda and a Egyptian national, discovered with him where a Canadian passport, airport security passes, and airline mechanics certificate, all of which would have allowed him access to sensitive areas in some of the highest profile airports within the US. It would be fair to say that the possibility exists, but to what extent is difficult to measure, on the other hand with the global maritime freight industry expected to reach the value of approximately USD 210 billion by 2021, any disruptions to commercial maritime freight transport would be very costly. “With it being estimated that a two day closure of a port would cost $58 Billion, while a detonation of a nuclear device would cost up to $1 Trillion dollars in damage. There is potential that this the of catastrophe could plunge a nation, or the world, into a dangerous economic downturn.” (North 2009 see bibliography for details). With the estimated cost of initial equipment and staffing being in the region of USD 907 Million and an annual running cost of USD 507 Million, this would translate as an increase of 4% in cost for the initial set up and a 2%increase there after. The high cost of setup and running of this initiative for developing countries, while initially very high, will in time be off set by increased freight through compliant ports, as only containers passing through CSI compliant ports can enter the USA, therefore it is hoped that increased feeder traffic from other ports, will increase and generate higher revenue for the newly compliant port.

During a review of the CSI, it was found there was a lack of consistency across all the CSI ports regarding the information contained in the local Standard Operating Procedures. It was found that there was a lack of specific information on how to refer high risk containers for further review by host nation customs officials, or how to conduct further assessment with host country officials and that in some ports though there was information on how the host country deals with high risk freight, the CSI has no authority over how high risk containers are detained, seized or released. the result of this was the CBP standardising the SOP’s at a program level, identifying the minimum requirements for use in every port and ensuring all local SOP’s where updated to include this. This review and subsequent standardisation of program and local SOP’s help to ensure the consistency of security measures throughout the CSI. Only through regular security audit and reviews can the overall consistency of the initiative be managed and kept to the minimum required standard. The use of non intrusive technology to carry out the screening of containers identified as high risk coupled with a clear and concise set of SOP’s should ensure the consistency and quality of the security measures carried out with in CSI ports.

Cooperation with foreign governments is essential to the CSI, with 85% of the trade to the United States of America entering through these ports. The foreign ports signing on to the CSI must meet certain minimal requirements, and the arrangement is reciprocal, foreign counterparts of the CBP are invited to base their customs agents within the ports of the U.S.A and observe the scanning and inspections. Through the use of the Automated Targeting System, all the information gathered about the containers, form carriers and freight shippers, using the new and comprehensive and detailed manifest of each container the CBP officers in the host country can identify high risk containers prior to loading. Shipping carriers are required to transmit a detailed manifest to the United States at least 24 hours prior to the loading of freight on to any vessel in a foreign port. This is used to enable the CBP to establish exactly the content of each container, there for the manifest must be detailed and precise. The generic terms of “freights of all kinds” or “said to contain” are no longer permissible as they do not provide enough information regarding the contents of each container. Information provided will be used to help identify the contents of the container as it is scanned with non intrusive imaging equipment, so details of quantities, size, shape and physical properties are needed to help identify any abnormalities within the container as it is scanned.

The development of “Smart ” containers each tagged with a unique barcode aids in the identification of the shipper, its contents and the routes taken along each stage of its delivery. These smart containers as well as being tagged with barcode for being scanned at entry and exit of each docking point, are fitted with multiple sensors, which though designed for the protection of its contents, preventing perishable good from being damaged can also be monitored to ensure that the contents have not been tampered with or the container diverted and its content been replaced with some form of terrorist weapon system. Many of the new smart container can provide location data of the container at all times, can monitor movement and vibrations allowing for tight controls on attempted tampering, they are able to detect trace substances with in the air including illegal substances and real time data can be transmitted and received worldwide.

For the fiscal years 2008, 2009 and 2010 the percentage of examinations conducted as requested where 95%, 93% and 94% respectively, ultimately the goal is to achieve 100% examination of all containers identified as at risk. During the fiscal year of 2010 CSI ports reviewed or examined over 10.1 million maritime shipments before their arrival at mainland US ports.

Ultimately the aim of the Container Security Initiative is to prevent and deter the entry of weapons of mass destruction in to the United States of America through one of its commercial seaports. At present and since the implementation of the Container Security Initiative and the SAFE Ports act there has been no use of such a weapon on the mainland U.S.A., but this does not mean that none have gained entry. The only way of determining if the initiative has failed in any way would be if such a weapon is used in some terrorist atrocity. The CSI makes good use of many of the security principles, especially the Defence in depth and early warning, by moving the frontiers of the CBP to the host nations and originators of the inbound freight, by receiving early and advance notification of all contents of vessel bound containers, detailed analysis and risk assessments can be made for each and every container allowing for further screening if required.