- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2001

Tighter security at U.S. shipping ports will not slow the movement of consumer goods into the country, industry officials and retailers say.

The federal government beefed up security at ports along U.S. shores after the massive terrorist attacks on New York and Washington Sept. 11.

The measures include more frequent vehicle-identification checks and longer inspections by port authorities. In some cities, the Coast Guard has escorted vessels into and out of ports.

But the increased security has not slowed the movement of cargo into the country, said Eileen Denne, spokeswoman for the American Association of Port Authorities, a shipping-industry trade group.

"We're not seeing disruptions. There has been no major change in the flow of cargo," she said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Maritime Administration, the federal agency that monitors the shipping industry, could not provide figures on the volume of cargo that has arrived in the United States since the terrorist attacks.

Retailers say products are arriving on time at their stores.

Grocery chains Giant Food Inc. and Safeway Inc. and department store chains Hecht's and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. reported no slowdown in product shipments yesterday.

Federal regulators closed airports for two days after last week's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. During the ban, the U.S. Postal Service and private delivery companies like United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. relied on their trucking fleets to move packages around the country.

Each operation said it had resumed normal air travel by yesterday.

"There has been no impact. Commerce is going on," said Wal-Mart spokesman Tom Williams. The company operates 62 distribution centers across the country and its own trucking fleet.

Analysts say grocery stores are virtually immune from changes in international shipping standards because the stores do not carry many products from overseas.

Produce, for example, is usually grown at farms near the stores.

"Groceries are a domestic-driven business. Shipping is a non-factor in the distribution cycle," said Jeff Metzger, editor of Food World, a trade magazine for the grocery industry.

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