The Container Security Initiative (CSI) program is falling short of its goal to perform risk-assessment screenings on all U.S.-bound shipments from participating international ports, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study. The report states that Customs and Border Protection officials experienced staffing problems arising from issues such as diplomatic nuances and workspace constraints, which has allowed 35% of the shipments to bypass screenings.
Under CSI, homeland security officials seek to detect and avert attempts to use maritime cargo containers to ship weapons of mass destruction to the U.S.
“The staffing model’s reliance on placing staff at CSI ports rather than considering whether some of the targeting functions could be performed in the U.S. limits the program’s operational efficiency and effectiveness,” the GAO report stated.
Shippers are required to submit cargo manifests to U.S. homeland security officials at least 24 hours in advance for risk assessment.
“[Customs] didn’t have enough staff located where it needed to be in determining which containers merit further scrutiny,” Richard Stana, GAO Director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues told Fleet Owner. “If you don’t perform that operation, the chance containers will leave the port without that additional screening being done is greater.”
Additionally, GAO has concluded there are vulnerabilities in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) program, which is aimed at reducing border waiting times and inspections to transporters of U.S.-bound goods in exchange for committing to increased cargo security. The program grants the benefits to members before they complete the validation process, GAO said.
Drew Robertson, managing director of Freight Transportation Security Consortium, said the gaps in WMD detection at the port level underscore the need for bolstering security within the drayage industry.
“The fact is that the ports have the attitude that as soon as they push shipments out the door it’s not their problem,” Robertson told Fleet Owner, noting that port truckers generally don’t make enough to maintain modern equipment, much less invest in modern security equipment.
“Drayage operators have to go down to the port driving trucks from 1982 and getting paid little more than their operating expenses,” Robertson continued. “There has been very little financial support in the trucking industry in regards to security and there’s no reason why owner-operators have to pay for this. If you want an integrated, comprehensive security program, then it has to start at the starting point in China and end at the warehouse in Kansas City.”
A spokesperson for the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers, an advocacy group representing companies operating in the Ports of New York and New Jersey, disagrees with the GAO report however, saying Customs has been thorough in checking “most” of the containers with no incidents so far.