June 3, 2012
Shipper Interests Fail to Get Congress to Change Mind, Despite Lots of Evidence It Won’t Work, International Outrage; Will Shippers Pay a Price?
SCDigest Editorial Staff
A 2006 law mandating 100% scanning of ocean containers headed to the US at the point of origin will not be changed in Congress, as efforts to get language that
A US port authority bill was being voted on last week by the House Committeeon Homeland Security, and shipping industry interests such as the National Retail Federation lobbied the committee to add language that would blocking the mandate. But that effort failed, meaning the requirement could take effect as currently mandated in July, the deadline in the initial 2008 legislation.
However, Dept. of Homeland chief Janet Napolitano can on her own authority from the original law delay the requirement in successive two year increments if she does not believe the technology or processes are ready. Whether she will exercise that authority to delay the July deadline is unclear.
The issue is a big one for US importers, as many say the requirement will add delays in the flow of goods and raise costs that will eventually be passed on to importers/shippers. The expected delays could literally add several days to inbound cycle times, increasing inventory levels and the level of inbound variability.
The NRF, as an example, said a delay in the mandate is not enough - the whole requirement should be eliminated.
“We believe Congress should take this one step further and permanently waive the requirement for the reasons laid out by DHS," the NRF wrote in a letter to committee chairman Peter King of New York.
Many believe the technology to effectively scan shipper containers does not exist currently. There are other even more practical issues.
For example, under the planned system, huge X-ray devices would scan every one of the containers for suspicious shapes at a rate that is expected to be about three containers per minute. However, it currently takes several minutes to scan a container, and the results are far from perfect.
“Imagine your worst line to get through security at an airport,” said SCDigest editor Dan Gilmore. "Now imagine the luggage scanners aren't working quite right, and they have to keep running bags through repeated times. Can you imagine the delays? That's a real possibility for cargo with the law and the current technology for this as it stands."
“In some of our international operations, there literally isn’t room for one of these machines," an air cargo executive for a major US airline, who asked to remain anonymous, told SCDigest when the bill was first signed into law in 2008.
While importers, freight forwarders, terminal operators and others are naturally enough all in favor of high levels of security, most believe that can be achieved with systems that do not use a 100% scanning approach.
(Global Supply Chain Article Continued Below)