- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 27, 2002

The U.S. Customs Service yesterday for the first time in the agency's 213-year history deployed a team of inspectors outside of North America to target and screen cargo bound for the United States.
Customs Commissioner Robert C. Bonner said the team of inspectors reported for duty at the Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands, as part of the government's Container Security Initiative (CSI). The Netherlands was the first nation in Europe to sign an agreement with the U.S. Customs Service to participate in CSI.
"These partnerships not only make our nations safer, but make the entire global trading system safer as well," Mr. Bonner said during a policy address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which focused on trade, borders and homeland security one year after the September 11 attacks.
Under the terms of the CSI, which began in January, customs inspectors will be assigned to the Port of Rotterdam. They will use the agency's automated systems to identify potentially high-risk containers bound for the United States, containers that pose a terrorist threat.
Once identified, Dutch customs officials will screen the containers to ensure they do not contain terrorists or weapons of terror.
Mr. Bonner said the four core elements of CSI are the establishment of security criteria to identify high-risk containers; prescreening those containers identified as high-risk before they arrive at U.S. ports; using technology to quickly prescreen high-risk containers; and the development and use of smarter, more secure containers.
He noted that CSI is a plan to secure an indispensable, but vulnerable link in the chain of global trade: containerized shipping. The initiative supports the "Cooperative G8 Action on Transport Security," adopted by the eight most important industrialized nations (G8) at their Kananaskis, Canada, meeting in June.
About 200 million sea-cargo containers move annually to and through ports around the world. Nearly 50 percent of the value of all U.S. imports arrives via sea-cargo containers every year.
In addition to the European ports, Mr. Bonner said U.S. Customs Service and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency exchanged inspectors at select seaports in March to target and prescreen containers bound for each nation. In addition to Canada, with which U.S. Customs Service pioneered the CSI concept, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Germany have signed agreements to implement CSI at the ports of Rotterdam, Le Havre, Antwerp, Bremerhaven and Hamburg.
Mr. Bonner said Singapore has also said it will participate in CSI.
CSI will be fully operational in Rotterdam by September and Mr. Bonner said he expects the agreement to be fully operational in Le Havre, Antwerp, Bremerhaven and Hamburg in the next few months.

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