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Homeland Security

18 November 2005

Maritime Cargo Container Screening Program Begins in Argentina

Buenos Aires first South American port operating under U.S. security initiative

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The port of Buenos Aires has begun targeting and pre-screening maritime cargo containers destined for the United States, says the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency.

In a November 17 statement, the CBP said Buenos Aires becomes the 41st port around the world operating under the U.S. Container Security Initiative (CSI), designed to deter terrorists seeking to use cargo containers as a "conduit for terrorism within the maritime environment."

On May 9, Argentina became the first South American country to sign the CSI, enabling all cargo destined for the United States through the port of Buenos Aires to be pre-screened for terrorists and terrorist weapons, said the CBP, which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  (See related article.)

The CBP says expansion of CSI to Buenos Aires, which is located on the Rio de la Plata estuary and accessible by open sea, will provide a strategic advantage for targeting containers transshipped through the port, the agency said.

Santos, Brazil, was the second port in South America to be included in CSI.  The governments of the United States and Brazil signed an agreement May 24, making that seaport, South America's largest, a strategic location for screening cargo destined for the United States.

Other ports in the Western Hemisphere operating under the container initiative are at the Canadian cities of Montreal, Vancouver and Halifax.

ENHANCED PORT SECURITY RESPONDS TO TERRORIST THREAT TO GLOBAL TRADE

CBP Commissioner Robert Bonner said that having the container initiative at ports, such as in Buenos Aires, is a way of "addressing the threat to global trade, making it more secure against terrorist exploitation."

Bonner said his agency will continue to "cast out the CSI security blanket to additional foreign ports."  CBP's goal, he said, is to have 50 operational CSI ports by the end of 2006.  When that happens, about 90 percent of all trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific cargo imported into the United States will be subjected to pre-screening, Bonner said.

Bonner explained that his agency will deploy a team of officers at the port of Buenos Aires to target maritime containers destined for the United States.  Argentine customs officials, working with CBP officers, will be responsible for screening any containers identified as a potential terrorist risk.

About 75 percent of cargo containers headed to the United States originate in -- or are transshipped from -- CSI ports, the CBP said.

Bonner said that when first initiated, CSI was a "revolutionary idea -- to engage foreign governments to work with us to extend … security outward, so that our [U.S.] borders are not the first line of defense against the threat of terrorism.” 

"Now CSI is an accepted model of international cooperation to protect the global supply chain against terrorism," he said.

The official said the World Customs Organization, the European Union, and the Group of Eight nations all support expansion of the initiative and have adopted resolutions implementing CSI security measures at ports throughout the world.

An average of 25,000 seagoing containers are off-loaded daily at U.S. seaports, the CBP said.

More information about the container security initiative and the full text of the November 17 statement are available on the CBP Web site.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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