US dumping plans on container scans: homeland security chief

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The United States is dropping plans to ask global ports for full container screenings before they are being shipped over, US Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano said Wednesday.

"We believe the so-called 100 percent requirement is probably not the best way to go," Napolitano told reporters at a press briefing in Rotterdam, where she was visiting Europe's largest port and the fourth-largest globally.

Napolitano is on a week-long tour of Britain and Europe to beef up security ties within the global supply chain between the US, Britain and Europe and has met her British counterpart Theresa May earlier this week.

On Thursday she is meeting EU ministers and will participate in a conference organised by the World Customs Organisation in Brussels, where she said she would deliver a similar message.

Asked about a 2007 US Congress requirement that all containers entering the US should be scanned by their ports of exit by 2012, Napolitano said: "We are at this point not going to insist on that."

She said the Department of Homeland Security has opted for a more "layered approach" including good cooperation between countries, better intelligence sharing and analysis as well as a certain measure of container scanning to prevent terror attacks on the United States.

Called the container security initiative (CSI), the project is being run by 50 ports worldwide including Rotterdam.

The scanning initiative requires port customs to pre-scan and evaluate containers considered to be high-risk possibilities of being used in terror attacks before being put on ships bound for US ports.

But the plan has run into a barrage of criticism from customs authorities, who said it would tally up expenses within the global supply chain and could harm trade.

Napolitano tell a Congressional panel in February the US faced "heightened" threats of terror of attacks from extremists, probably the highest since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

© 2011 AFP

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