WASHINGTON - The Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Energy (DOE) today announced the first phase of the Secure Freight Initiative, an unprecedented effort to build upon existing port security measures by enhancing the federal government's ability to scan containers for nuclear and radiological materials overseas and to better assess the risk of inbound containers.
Today's announcement includes the endorsement from a broad coalition of terminal operators, ocean carriers, and shippers, who pledged to support this effort at facilities they operate overseas.
"Our highest priority and greatest sense of urgency has to be aimed at preventing a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb attack against the homeland," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "This initiative advances a comprehensive strategy to secure the global supply chain and cut off any possibility of exploitation by terrorists. I appreciate the commitment of our international allies in sharing more information and harmonizing our risk reduction efforts."
"Improving port security worldwide helps to improve our security right here at home. Through the Secure Freight partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, we will be able to screen more cargo than ever before using the advanced detection technology, and be in a better position to prevent nuclear materials or devices from being smuggled into the United States or partner countries," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said.
The initial phase of Secure Freight involves the deployment of a combination of existing technology and proven nuclear detection devices to six foreign ports: Port Qasim in Pakistan; Puerto Cortes in Honduras; Southampton in the United Kingdom; Port Salalah in Oman; Port of Singapore; and the Gamman Terminal at Port Busan in Korea. Beginning in early 2007, containers from these ports will be scanned for radiation and information risk factors before they are allowed to depart for the United States. In the event of a detection alarm, both homeland security personnel and host country officials will simultaneously receive an alert. The U.S. Government is continuing the project with a port operator in Hong Kong to develop and refine their integrated container security architecture pilot test. The Hong Kong Government is actively considering the Secure Freight Initiative.
DHS will allocate nearly $30 million to fund the radiography equipment and the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will contribute $30 million to fund the installation of radiation portal monitors. NNSA will also lead the effort to integrate the data from equipment for use in-country. DHS will be responsible for installing the necessary communications infrastructure to transmit the data to the United States and will work with the host governments during the alarm resolution process.
Data gathered on containers bound for the United States in foreign ports participating in the Secure Freight Initiative will be transmitted in near real-time to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers working in overseas ports and to the DHS National Targeting Center. This data will be combined with other available risk assessment information such as currently required manifest submissions, to improve risk analysis, targeting and scrutiny of high-risk containers overseas.
All alarms from the radiation detection equipment for any container will be resolved locally as is currently the case under DOE's Megaports Initiative. For containers bound for the United States, we will work with host governments to establish protocols that ensure a swift resolution by the host government and may include instructing carriers not to load the container until the risk is fully resolved.
This first phase of the Secure Freight Initiative creates an unprecedented partnership with Pakistan, Honduras, the United Kingdom, Oman, Singapore, and Korea, and it will provide these governments with a greater window into potentially dangerous shipments moving across their territory. In Port Qasim, Puerto Cortes, and Southampton, the deployed scanning equipment will capture data on all containers bound to the United States, fulfilling the pilot requirements set out by Congress in the SAFE Ports Act.
Surpassing these Congressional requirements, DHS is also partnering with some of the world's largest container ports. The size and complexity of larger ports, such as Singapore and Busan, require an initial limited deployment. This first phase will provide lessons and evidence on how this new, integrated technology can meld smoothly into the logistics, operations, and flow of commerce at each different port.
Secure Freight will provide carriers of maritime containerized cargo with greater confidence in the security of the shipment they are transporting, and it will increase the likelihood for shippers and terminal operators that the flow of commerce will be both uninterrupted and secure.
The Secure Freight Initiative builds upon a risk-based approach to securing the international supply chain by leveraging programs like the NNSA's Megaports Initiative, which works with foreign governments to install specialized radiation detection equipment in order to deter, detect, and interdict illicit shipments of nuclear and other radioactive materials. The Megaports Initiative has completed deployments of radiation detection equipment at six international seaports and is at various stages of implementation in 12 additional countries around the world. Similarly, DHS' Container Security Initiative enables CBP officers already working in 50 overseas ports to inspect high risk containers before they are loaded on vessels destined for the U.S., and accounts for more than 80 percent of maritime containerized cargo shipped to the homeland. In addition, the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism partners 6,000 of the world's leading U.S. importers with DHS to pre-screen of all of their cargo entering the country. At U.S. ports, DHS has deployed enough radiation portal monitors to scan 80 percent of all cargo entering the country for radiation.
These initiatives along with increased CBP and Coast Guard personnel, resources and assets, as well as the creation of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, have pushed our layered defenses overseas and substantially increased security at America's ports since 9/11.
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