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CBP Urged to Assess Risk Level of Cargo Shipped from Foreign Ports

Thursday, October 03, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Government Accountability Office said in a recent report that U.S. Customs and Border Protection has not assessed the risk posed by foreign ports that ship cargo to the U.S. for purposes of its Container Security Initiative since 2005. The report concludes that CBP needs to periodically conduct such evaluations, as the U.S. Coast Guard does under its International Port Security program, and use the results to inform any future changes to or expansion of CSI.

Under CSI, CBP officials at select foreign seaports use intelligence and risk assessment information to determine whether U.S.-bound cargo container shipments from those ports are at risk of containing weapons of mass destruction or other terrorist contraband. To aid in this process, CBP uses the Automated Targeting System – an enforcement and decision support system that incorporates a set of rules to assess information provided by supply chain parties such as importers – to identify high-risk shipments.

Given that CBP had not conducted a CSI risk assessment for some time, the GAO undertook its own review, which plugged cargo shipment data from fiscal year 2012 into a risk-based model developed by CBP for another program but never implemented because of budget cuts. This review found that there was no CSI presence at about half of the ports considered high risk and that about 20% of existing CSI ports were at lower risk locations.

The report acknowledges that there are challenges associated with closing CSI ports and opening others because removing CSI from a country might negatively affect U.S. relations with the host government. However, the GAO suggests this is a risk worth taking to “ensure that CBP is allocating its resources to provide the greatest possible coverage of high-risk cargo to best mitigate the risk of importing weapons of mass destruction or other terrorist contraband into the United States through the maritime supply chain.”

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