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The Inspection Chimera

The US Congress has mandated that all Containers be tested for radiation prior to dispatch for export to the US by 2012. Many in Congress have advocated 100% inspections of all Containers bound for the US, for all threats. None of this makes any sense nor will it ever be realized. 100% inspections of Containers for any threat will drive cost exponentially and bring trade to a halt while not markedly improving US safety.

Calls for such stringent inspections is political pandering at its worst, insulting to the trade community and to the American voter. The technology to inspect is flawed and the process of inspecting every container will impede trade. No one denies that the US (and EU and Asia) needs to protect itself and that protecting global trade is critical. Nor dose anyone in the Trade Community discount the need to improve the security of ocean Containers. The debate is not about the need, but about the how.

Knowledgeable people in the Customs and the Trade Community know that security is achieved through trade transparency and that smart or ‘targeted inspections’ is the only viable approach to mitigating risk. Transparency is achieved through knowing the stuffing, shippers and stripping stakeholders of a trade and end to end monitoring of a transaction and a container. Targeted inspections requires identifying high risk traders and Containers thru a variety of means, including verifying the source (at stuffing), tracking changes of custody (in transit), near continuous monitoring of the Container status (security breaches), knowing and monitoring the planned route (track & trace), alerting consignees and authorities of security or route deviations and verifying the Consignee (stripping) authenticity, allowing Customs to model and analyze the inherent risk of a trade, and thereby target its inspection resources on problematic containers.

Creating a transparent trade requires a monitored container, certification of exporters, LSPs and importers, utilizing integrated transaction management applications and applying risk modeling tools that enable Customs to effectively identify at risk trades; and then integrating these solution components into an integrated whole.

Many of the required components of the solution have been developed (Monitors, CTPAT, Risk Tools), but no integrated approach has been deployed. Short of an integrated approach, inspections will continue to be searching for the needle in the haystack.

Advocating 100% inspection is disingenuously perpetuating the problem, while not contributing to an effective security solution.


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