Customs patrols Rotterdam docks as the anti-terror operation expands

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 August, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 August, 2002, 12:00am

United States Customs personnel have begun patrolling Rotterdam docks in line with Washington's new Customs Security Initiative (CSI), making the Netherlands the overseas testing ground for the new anti-terror regime.

US Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner this week announced the development while addressing the Centre For Strategic and International Studies in a speech aimed at calming fears about the impact of the CSI.

Mr Bonner said he expected CSI to be operational soon in Singapore, Le Havre, Antwerp, Bremerhaven and Hamburg.

Noticeably absent from the list was Hong Kong, perhaps signalling that negotiations, which started in June, are still in the early stages.

'CSI is not just an interesting policy idea,' said Mr Bonner. 'It is reality.'

The commissioner sought to quell fears that cargo flow would be disrupted by inspections and 24-hour pre-submission requirements for cargo manifests.

'The screening at CSI ports takes place during the down-time at the outbound port,' he said.

'Most containers sit at a terminal, on average, for several days waiting for the vessels to arrive and be loaded. We can use this window of down-time to screen the container for security.'

While the US initially was targeting CSI partners at the 20 ports which ship the most cargo to America, Mr Bonner predicted it would not end here.

'CSI efforts will not stop at the top 20 ports; they were simply the logical place for us to start.

'As soon as we get CSI in place in many of the top 20 ports - and we are close to doing so - we will expand CSI to other strategic ports. In fact, we are already in discussions with several of the countries with such ports.'

However, the pre-inspection mandate would also allow US customs to reject loading orders for suspicious containers being shipped from non-CSI ports, leaving them to be dealt with on foreign docks.

'Having the data in advance of loading [the vessel] will permit, when exceptional circumstances demand it, load or no-load direction to carriers of containers to be shipped to the US from non-CSI ports.'

When Washington had satisfactorily negotiated maritime CSI partners, Mr Bonner said the initiative would seek new horizons.

'We're also working on the logical extension of CSI - applying the programme's targeting and pre-screening principles and methods beyond sea containers to air cargo,' Mr Bonner said. 'With the Department of Transportation, we are developing an Air Cargo Security Initiative - Air CSI - so stay tuned.'