US Shippers Oppose 100 Percent Cargo Inspections

A POWERFUL trade association has raised its voice against the spectre of 100% inspection of US-bound containers in foreign ports, urging the Senate to reject this provision, writes Rajesh Joshi in New York.

The National Retail Federation, an umbrella group which represents all major US importers and retailers, has instead urged the Senate to adhere to a pilot programme already legislated in the SAFE Port Act. The 100% inspection effort, supported by Democrats, was defeated during the Republican-era debates on the SAFE Port Act last year.

The House of Representatives, now controlled by the Democrats, revived the issue this year, as its Bill to implement the recommendations of the 9'11 Commission banned all containers from entering the US within five years unless they are scanned.

This Bill was passed last month. The Senate version of it has become the focal point of industry interests committed to eliminating the 100% inspection clause.

'This provision is unnecessary, unworkable, a poor use of limited resources and would threaten serious harm to global commerce and the US economy,' NRF senior vice-president for government relations Steve Pfister said in a letter to Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee chairman Joseph Lieberman, the Democrat from Connecticut.

'There is simply no need to revisit this issue. Rather than rushing through an ill-considered container scanning requirement, we need to let the provisions in the SAFE Port Act work.'

The Senate is to begin work on its own version of the 9'11 implementation Bill, which will have to be reconciled with the House counterpart before being sent up for President Bush's signature.

- Leading German maritime politicians have joined the line-up of those rejecting plans to introduce 100% scanning of US-bound containers, writes Katrin Berkenkopf in Cologne.

Margrit Wetzel, spokeswoman for coastal MPs in the governing Social Democrat party, said the results of pilot projects had to be awaited and any further measures be discussed within IMO.

'Security is important, but please no one-sided approach to the disadvantage of our port and transport industries,' she said.

She said a hasty introduction of full screening would lead to congestion in European ports.

'With the current technical opportunities, such a comprehensive control is surely not feasible.'

(Lloyds List -- 02/08/07)