TWIC being tested in Philadelphia and Los Angeles

| Monday, November 03, 2003

A top Homeland Security official acknowledged it is nearly impossible to police goods made in foreign countries before they arrive at ports to be shipped to the United States, Federal Computer Week reported.

That is why shippers must comply with security rules before goods reach a U.S. port, said Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security at the Department of Homeland Security.

He said officials are testing a transportation worker identification system that would provide ID cards to dock workers, truckers and others at ports after they undergo a background check. A pilot project for the Transportation Worker Identification Card system is under way in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The program is being developed by the Transportation Security Administration.

"Maritime operations provide the means of opportunity for terrorists," Hutchinson said, while speaking in New York at the U.S. Maritime Security Expo, "and disruption of the supply chain would be devastating."

With 361 ports in the United States and 7,500 foreign flagged vessels arriving each year, DHS must make sure the maritime system is protected. Technology is essential in that effort, Hutchinson added.

"Technology is the cornerstone, particularly in maritime security," he said.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard is developing unmanned aerial surveillance, and private shippers are starting to provide advance manifests and conduct their own searches.

Nevertheless, the supply chain is still vulnerable and could face disruption at any point, Hutchinson said.