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Business Groups Support Delay of 100% Scanning Requirement, Call for Repeal

Wednesday, June 04, 2014
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

Dozens of trade and business associations are supporting an additional two-year delay of 100% scanning for inbound maritime cargo containers but also want lawmakers to repeal this requirement altogether. Organizations representing U.S. manufacturers, farmers, wholesalers, retailers, importers, distributors, and transportation and logistics providers expressed that position in a June 2 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, following reports that Johnson indicated to Congress May 5 that the 100% scanning requirement is unlikely to ever be implemented.

The current risk-based strategy employed by DHS “is the right approach to enhance global supply chain security,” the June 2 letter said, while 100% scanning is impractical, does not actually improve security, would have a significantly negative impact on global commerce, and would cause significant conflict with the governments of U.S. trading partners. The letter praised the “impressive and effective” strategy developed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to screen all containerized cargo shipments bound for the U.S. and use state-of-the-art screening systems and scanning technology to identify and thoroughly inspect any and all containers that it finds to be high risk or that warrant a closer examination. This strategy is “fully embraced by industry as well as our foreign trading partners and has proven to be highly effective,” the letter said.

By contrast, the signatories added, there has been no resolution to the many issues that have been raised about 100% scanning both before and since it was mandated by Congress. For example, it remains unclear whether “scan” means simply taking a reading or image of a given container or also requires an analysis of the reading or image to determine if the container may be released or held for further inspection. Scans would be pointless without such analysis, the letter notes, but the law is silent on this issue. There are also no definitive answers as to what resources CBP’s National Targeting Center would require to analyze scans taken of the 10-plus million maritime cargo containers bound for the U.S. each year, who would pay for, operate, maintain and monitor scanning equipment, and what the U.S. would do if and when a foreign trading partner insisted on a reciprocal requirement that all U.S. containerized exports be scanned. CBP has conducted a series of pilot programs in an attempt to address these and other questions, the letter noted, but these programs showed the impracticality of achieving 100% scanning in the maritime environment.

As a result, the letter concluded, the additional waiver is “the only action [DHS] could take without imperiling international commerce and the U.S. economy.” However, the signatories added that instead of repeating this exercise every two years, the “most appropriate way to address this flawed provision” would be for the White House to recommend that Congress repeal it.

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