Container security test at Prince Rupert
US. and Canadian customs authorities in October launched a collaborative effort to reduce redundant security checks for maritime cargo entering the United States via the Canadian port of Prince Rupert.
Under a one-year demonstration program, advance manifest shipping data electronically submitted by ocean carriers for inbound cargo that crosses by rail at International Falls, Minn., will be screened by U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center for potential anomalies, using advance data collected from importers by the Canada Border Security Agency and shared with CBP.
Containers with suspicious shipments will be pulled aside for x-ray exams to check for contraband or weapons, and the images will be electronically shared with U.S. Customs, CBSA spokesperson Amitha Carnadin said via e-mail. Physical exams are also possible if the images detect potential smuggling.
Rail cargo will still pass by non-intrusive inspection and radiation detection portals along the tracks at the U.S. border, but the process does not require trains to come to a complete stop unless inspectors detect something unusual in an image.
Prince Rupert is a relatively new intermodal port in British Columbia where containers from Asia are immediately loaded on Canadian National trains for direct delivery to major population centers in Canada and the U.S. Midwest.
Carnadin said containers will be secured with high-security bolt seals for transit through Canada to the land border, eliminating the need for duplicate inspections at the U.S. border unless there are signs that the cargo has been compromised during the journey.
Meanwhile, Canada’s screening team will continue to risk-assess all Canadian-bound imports.
Canada is in the process of setting up a program to collect advance commercial information — carrier manifest and importer data — across all modes that mirrors the ocean pre-departure manifest and Importer Security Filing in the United States. U.S. and Canadian public affairs officers were vague about whether the data being analyzed by both agencies is received by CBP and shared with its Canadian counterpart, or vice versa.
The program is a step forward, but advance manifest information is a crude tool that CBP recognized last decade as inadequate for effective risk analysis and led it to seek more detailed shipment data directly from importers.
The harmonized approach became possible after Canada instituted a rule similar to one in the United States that requires importers to electronically submit data prior to vessel loading overseas about the contents of each shipment and the parties involved in the transaction. Both U.S. Customs and CBSA seek common data sets.
The pilot represents a modified approach to the traditional Container Security Initiative under which CBP has officers stationed in 58 foreign ports to help flag shipments that pose a high security risk. CBP uses analytics to identify containers of concern and then asks the foreign customs agency on site to conduct an inspection. It is also a form of pre-clearance that the two sides have discussed implementing for cross-border land traffic and that exists for passenger travel at several Canadian airports.
According to the Department of Homeland Security’s 2010 budget request, CBP wants to roll back CSI to reduce the expense of billeting personnel overseas, because technology has progressed to the point where it makes targeting determinations remotely through data exchange with foreign counterparts.
The pilot program is the latest manifestation of the growing efforts by Canada and the United States to integrate border management between neighbors with the world’s largest bilateral trading relationship. “Screen once, accept twice” is the guiding principle for the border agencies when it comes to cargo and passenger security.
In early 2011, the two sides agreed on a Beyond the Border initiative outlining a vision for perimeter security and economic competitiveness based on integrating operations to improve security and the flow of legitimate people and cargo. A year ago, President Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper released an action plan with specific goals for implementing the Beyond the Border effort.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration declared Canada’s air cargo security program as commensurate with its own and opened the door for airlines to follow the security protocols of Canada to meet U.S. requirements for checking all cargo flying on inbound passenger aircraft.
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