Until now, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has sought to secure global shipping by relying on intelligence and scrutinizing cargo manifests to identify and inspect suspicious shipments -- such as an unrefrigerated container full of "frozen fish" -- long before they reach American shores.
But critics say this method is flawed because it relies on the vague and often-unreliable information listed on shipping documents, as well as on spotty intelligence from remote corners of the world. Currently, less than 6 percent of the containers headed for American ports are deemed "high risk" by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and get pulled for examination by Customs inspectors.
Now, a new strategy being tested in Hong Kong claims to better secure the global shipping system by electronically scrutinizing every container full of sneakers, without unacceptably slowing the flow of international commerce.
In the past year, the Hong Kong Terminal Operators Association, which includes several private companies that manage the world's second-busiest port after Singapore, has deployed scanning machines supplied by Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego. Trucks that haul the port's containers pass through two of the giant scanners. One checks for nuclear radiation, while the other uses gamma rays to seek out any dense, suspicious object made of steel or lead inside the containers that could shield a bomb from the nuclear detector.
Friday, July 29, 2005