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Senate Bill Would Suspend 100% Scanning Deadline

SAFE Port Reauthorization Act renews C-TPAT and CSI as author calls scan-all effort \'misguided\'

The battle over 100 percent scanning of U.S.-bound ocean containers is taking another sharp turn in a partisan skirmish over maritime security. <!--StartFragment-->

A bill to reauthorize the 2006 SAFE Port Act includes a provision that would suspend the July 2012 deadline for scanning all containers before they board a U.S.-bound vessel. Its sponsors, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., authors of the original SAFE Port Act, filed a similar reauthorization last year, but it died at the end of the congressional session.

The SAFE Port Reauthorization Act also renews several familiar supply chain security programs, and extends the port security grant program.

A Republican-controlled House built on a Collins-Murray draft to create the Security and Accountability for Every Port Act that President Bush signed into law in December 2006. It provided for Customs and Border Protection to pilot-test the concept of scanning all containers. The agency carried out the tests, but found that what 100 percent scanning was possible at smaller ports, it would not be feasible at large ports.

When Democrats took control of the House in 2007, the first bill filed was one to implement all recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Tacked onto it were 100 percent scanning/screening requirements for ocean and air cargo, with the deadline for ocean cargo July 2012. Since then, Customs and the Department of Homeland Security have resisted congressional pressure to carry out the law, arguing the technology didn¡¯t exist to scan all containers on a large scale.

The 100 percent effort was ¡°misguided and provides a false sense of security,¡± Collins said. ¡°It would also impose onerous restrictions on the flow of commerce, costing billions with little additional security benefit.¡±

The SAFE Port Reauthorization Act also calls for funding the port security grant program at $300 million a year for five years. It reauthorizes Customs¡¯ Automated Targeting System, the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism and the Container Security Initiative.

The bill would provide C-TPAT members with new benefits, including security training and improved information sharing between Customs and industry about terrorist threats. Customs also is authorized to make spot checks on C-TPAT members to assure they are keeping up with the program¡¯s standards.

Boaters who report suspicious activity to the Coast Guard under the America¡¯s Waterway Watch program would be protected from frivolous lawsuits under the new bill.

Contact R.G. Edmonson at bedmonson@joc.com

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