Some use `smart containers' to get fast-lane treatment

| Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Security-sensitive shipping lines have started using cargo containers equipped with sensors and stronger locks to deter terrorism, The Associated Press reported.

The sensors can detect whether the cargo box has been opened, not what is inside, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert C. Bonner said recently. He spoke at a seminar for members of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, a business/government initiative.

Members of the partnership, including U.S. importers, foreign manufacturers and freight forwarders, will be allowed faster passage for their shipments through "green lanes" at ports.

Shipments destined for U.S. ports will not be required to use the containers, but federal authorities will encourage their adoption to speed inspection checks.

Existing containers currently offer little indication of tampering.

"They're dumb as a fence post, so we just want to make them smarter," Bonner said.

Capitol Hill is increasingly concerned that the nation's ports are ripe for exploitation by terrorists. Sens. Susan Collins, R-ME, and Joseph Lieberman, D-CT, sent a letter last week to Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security Asa Hutchinson raising questions about what they say are flaws in efforts to identify "high-risk" containers.