The Security of Shipping Containers
The security of the ever-expanding fleet of container ships that ply the world’s oceans is an issue that Port Containers USA and the wider shipping industry take extremely seriously. Maintaining the safety of goods, vessels and personnel is critical to customer confidence in these challenging times.
International Cooperation is Key
Since 2000, the World Shipping Council has played a vital role in helping maintain the high standards of security established by ocean-going liner operators, who facilitate approximately 60% of the international trade in goods, primarily through container and roll-on/roll-off vessels.
The Council and its member companies work with government legislators and other stakeholders to improve communication, cooperation and technology in security, without disrupting the smooth flow of cross-border commerce that is key to profitability.
To this end, the Council set up a U.S. Security Advisory Committee back in 2004. This body sits alongside NMSAC, the Department of Homeland Security’s National Maritime Security Advisory Committee, plus U.S. Custom’s Border Protection Trade Support Network (TSN). There are similar bodies operating in Europe and other continents, to ensure a joined-up approach to managing the many security challenges.
Practical Steps Towards Enhanced Security
One important strategy implemented in the U.S. was the insistence that shipment data is submitted 24 hours prior to loading. While many cargoes are benign in nature – clothing, furniture and plastic for example – others are volatile and require specialized handling. This ‘24-hour Rule’ means proper risk assessments can be done, thus avoiding last minute problems that can create havoc with loading times and seriously delay a ship’s departure.
In addition, all U.S. bound carriers are required to file specific data about their shipping container consignments. This programme is operated by U.S Customs and commonly known as the ‘10+2 Rule’ or Importer Security Filing (ISF). It’s is an extremely complex piece of legislation that covers every aspect of the content, bonding, stowage and movement of shipping containers and other modes of haulage. To make life easier for shipping companies and importers, there’s a user-friendly web portal in existence that they can simply register to use.
The Threat of Terrorism
In our post-9/11 world, every operator and government must be aware of terrorist threats and the U.S. is increasingly vigilant in this respect. With thousands of Conex boxes arriving at our ports each day from every continent, it’s not something to be taken lightly.
In November 2001 U.S. Customs led the formation of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) which is a voluntary scheme aimed at securing international supply chains. The programme currently has over 10,000 members. Their enhanced security checks on shipping container contents is rewarded with low-risk designation, which means fewer cargo inspections and much faster progress through import channels. This is good news for both the shipping companies and their customers.
C-TPAT membership also confers other benefits, such as the right to an assigned security consultant and access to various training seminars. There are also reciprocal arrangements with the import administrations of specific countries, including Canada, Mexico and the European Union, that help expedite the movement of American shipping containers through foreign ports