U.S. wants port security extended

| Monday, January 21, 2002

U.S. Customs wants a screening plan for weapons of mass destruction on shipping containers extended to Canadian ports. Customs warns that a failure to act could lead to a crippling shutdown of ports around the world.

The United States is acting on concerns that a terrorist group may be planning an attack by detonating a nuclear device placed in a shipping container while in an American port, Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner said Thursday during a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Bonner warned that port shutdowns would severely impact the economies of the areas dependent on containers and ships coming in, off-loaded and moved. In addition, a worldwide economic collapse could result from this kind of attack if U.S. conceived screening practices are not installed.

Officials are discussing scenarios that would include the stationing of U.S. Customs agents at Canadian ports to screen U.S.-bound shipments. Canadians may also be dispatched to major U.S. ports to screen containers bound for Canada.

Currently, only about 2 percent of the 16 million containers that enter the United States each year are inspected. Only about 15 percent of containers entering the United States from Canada are inspected.

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