New government report faults cargo security at ports

| 3/13/2006

A new study under way by the Homeland Security Department has highlighted gaps in the nation’s cargo security.

The $75 million study is not scheduled to be released until the fall, but portions of it have been uncovered by The Associated Press.

The AP reported the study – which used satellites and monitors to track about 20,000 cargo containers arriving from Europe, Asia and the Middle East – found that cargo containers could be opened secretly during shipment to add or remove items without the knowledge of U.S. authorities.

The containers examined in the study were found to have mechanical bolts that can be cut and replaced or doors that can be removed by dismantling hinges, according to The AP.

The report found that these containers could be opened aboard some ships during long trips to America. And some containers were found to have stopped in rail yards in America that didn’t have fences and were in high crime areas.

But the problems aren’t just limited to containers. The report found that a warehouse in Maine was graded less secure than any in Pakistan, Turkey or Brazil.

Some of the problems outlined in the report involve security conditions in other countries. Truck drivers in Brazil, for example, were allowed to take cargo containers home overnight and park them along public streets, according to The AP. And no records were kept for inspections of some containers in Guatemala.

But it was not all bad news. The report did single out two terminals in Seattle and Tacoma, WA, as having good security practices, including using cameras and software to track both visitors and workers, The AP reported.