Feb 272010

Containers scanning: EU tells US 'get real"

Demands by the United States for the scanning of every single US-bound container by 2012 cannot be met, will cost jobs and damage Europe’s ability to defend its own citizens against terrorism warns a European Commission Staff Working Paper, Secure Trade and 100% Scanning of Containers.

United States legislation Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 demands 100 per cent scanning of containers at the port of export. It will, in effect, be a single layer of armour against a possible attack on the US by terrorists using radiation weapons often referred to as a ‘dirty bomb’.

image Such defence in breadth depends upon an absolute lack of any deliberate or accidental loophole, whether from the technology or human error. It must work with 100 per cent perfection every time to be effective, it can tolerate no faults.

Europe wants a more fault-tolerant, multi-layered security response.  In effect, this involves several defensive layers so that a ‘bad’ container that gets through one layer will get caught further along the transport chain.

A key issue in the EU report is that an attempt at 100 per cent container scanning will lead to a false sense of security. It is focussed on a single threat, from radiation weapons. It will not address the threat from biological and other non-radiation weapons.

The US is unable to pay for its own security and wants the countries its economy depends on to pay for it. To do so, Europe would have to redirect intra-European security resources, increase the risk to its own citizens to implement a strategy with no assured tangible security benefit, with no corresponding agreement from the US in return.

image Says EU commissioner Algirdas Šemeta : “Global maritime shipping routes form the backbone of international trade. Strengthening the security of the supply chain via effective security measures is a major European Union priority. Yet, implementing 100% scanning would require sizable investments, increase transport costs significantly and entail massive welfare losses. More importantly, such burdens to port authorities, companies and ultimately consumers worldwide would be for no proven security benefit… This cannot be the way forward.”

The stakes for both economic blocs is enormous. Together they account for a third of all world trade.

Unfortunately, much post-9/11 legislation in the United States has been pushed through on a sea of emotion and fear with little actual risk analysis, the 100 per cent container scanning legislation is among them.

Perhaps it is time for the US to invoke the Starbucks Strategy: Wake up and smell the coffee.

That is what the European report is all about.

Download the full report here

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