- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2006

Ships coming to the U.S. from six foreign ports will be screened for nuclear and radiological materials starting early next year, the departments of Homeland Security and Energy said yesterday.

Containers shipped from ports in Pakistan, Honduras, Britain, Oman, Singapore and South Korea will be scanned for radiation and other risk factors before they are allowed to depart for the United States, under the initial phrase of the program, called “Secure Freight.”

“Our highest priority and greatest sense of urgency has to be aimed at preventing a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb attack against the homeland,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “This initiative advances a comprehensive strategy to secure the global supply chain and cut off any possibility of exploitation by terrorists.”

When fully operational, the program will screen about 8 percent of the 11 million cargo containers that reach U.S. shores each year.

The screening will be done by port officials in the six countries, but the information will be given to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working in those ports.

The information will be combined with other data such as manifests to examine the containers’ risk.

In the event of an alarm, both Homeland Security personnel and host country officials would be alerted.

The $60 million cost of the equipment will be split by the two departments.

Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman said improving port security worldwide “helps to improve our security right here at home.”

Through the Secure Freight partnership, “we will be able to screen more cargo than ever before using the advanced detection technology, and be in a better position to prevent nuclear materials or devices from being smuggled into the United States or partner countries.”

The government is continuing to test the project with a port operator in Hong Kong to further develop it. The Hong Kong government is considering joining the Secure Freight initiative, the U.S. government said.

One of the ports, the Southampton facility in Britain, is operated by DP World, the same Dubai company whose planned purchase of U.S. port operations caused an uproar earlier this year.

One of the chief opponents of that deal said the company had undergone closer scrutiny this time.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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