US Customs inspectors take up position in Durban

Dec 3, 2003
Author: P&S

Four American customs officers from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) unit took up positions in the port of Durban yesterday (2 November 2003) to help ensure that containers from Durban are not used to carry weapons of terrorism.

The US Customs & Border Protection inspectors will work alongside their South African counterparts in the port inspecting the approximately 35 000 containers that are shipped every year from Durban to the USA. South African Revenue Services’ officials remain responsible for screening any container identified jointly with CBP officers as a potential terrorist risk.

“Durban is a significant hub of international shipping and plays a critical role in enhancing the security of the international supply chain,” US Customs & Border Protection commissioner Robert Bonner said in Durban yesterday. He said Durban was the 17th port in the world to become operational and the first in Africa and the Southern Hemisphere since the Container Security Initiative (CSI) was proposed in January 2002.

Other ports that have become operational within the programme are: Rotterdam, Le Havre, Bremerhaven, Hamburg, Antwerp, Singapore, Yokohama, Hong Kong, Göteborg, Felixstowe, Genoa, La Spezia, Busan, Vancouver, Montreal and Halifax.

“The way we do business in the future has to change dramatically,” said Pravin Gordhan, commissioner of the SA Revenue Service. Gordhan said the role of customs had become a critical factor in trade but the security initiative, without which South Africa could not hope to do business with the United States, also meant the opening of unique windows into huge markets for South African business.

South Africa and the United States signed an agreement of accord in June this year. Under an agreement of reciprocity South Africa may station customs personnel in the United States, joining customs officers from Japan and Canada as part of the CSI programme.

Japanese customs officials are on duty in the port of Los Angeles and Long Beach while Canadian officers have taken up duty in both Seattle and Newark, NJ.

The CSI programme uses technology and shared information to screen containers destined for the United States. Methods used include the following elements:

1] Using intelligence and automated information to identify and target high-risk containers.
2] Pre-screening those containers identified as high-risk, at the port of departure, before they arrive at US ports.
3] Using detection technology to quickly pre-screen high-risk containers.
4] Using smarter, tamper-evident containers.

“The primary purpose of CSI is to protect the global trading system and the trading lanes between CSI ports and the US,” Commissioner Bonner said.

The US Customs & Border Protection unit is an agency within the Department of Homeland Security that unifies US Customs, Immigration, and Agricultural Inspectors and the US Border Patrol.

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