As the 9/11 anniversary approaches we expect to see a spotlight on seaport security issues. The discussion is likely to lean heavily toward the practices and projects that still need to be done, such as a universal ID card for port workers and a greater expansion of cargo inspection systems. That focus tends to foster the erroneous belief that little is being done to protect our nationís seaports.
We agree that much more can be done -- port security is and will always be a work in progress. At the same time, itís important to note how much has been accomplished in the past five years to keep our ports, port workers and surrounding communities safe.
Our cargo security systems have changed tremendously. Seaport security now begins overseas, before cargo is loaded on to vessels bound for the United States. All incoming containerized cargo -- 100 percent -- is profiled for security risks by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, a division of Homeland Security, while it is still overseas. All containers flagged as high-risk are physically inspected at foreign ports.
Once a ship is at sea, the U.S. Coast Guard continues to review manifest information on the cargo and crew. Coast Guard "boarding teams," with bomb-sniffing dogs, have the authority to board a ship at sea for any reason. When a ship docks on our shores, U.S. Customs officials conduct another level of analysis to determine if any cargo warrants further inspection. The radiation portal monitors installed at all of our international cargo container terminals provide a final safeguard against potentially dangerous materials.
Some degree of risk will always exist in the open, free systems of commerce that have made the United States one of the most prosperous nations on Earth. However, we want to assure everyone that the Port of Long Beach and our seaport security partners, at every step of the global supply chain, are working diligently to minimize that risk.