Robert Bonner, Commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service
, today announced that the government of Singapore has agreed to join the Container Security Initiative (CSI), marking first nation in Asia to sign up for CSI and is a key U.S. Customs initiative designed to prevent global sea cargo from being exploited by terrorists to inflict harm on America and other nations of the world.
"I applaud the government of Singapore for joining the U.S. Customs Service Container Security Initiative. This important first agreement in Asia will
provide a significant measure of security for Singapore and the United States. This accord will also provide a significant measure of security for the global trading system as a whole," said Commissioner Bonner.
Launched by U.S. Customs in January 2002, the CSI is designed to enhance the security of global maritime shipping, a vital link in world commerce. Some 200 million sea cargo containers move annually among the world’s top seaports, and nearly 50 percent of the value of all U.S. imports arrive via sea cargo containers every year. The sheer volume of sea cargo traffic and multitude of opportunities it presents for use by terrorists are alarming.
A core element of CSI involves placing U.S. Customs inspectors at foreign seaports to screen U.S.-bound cargo containers before they are shipped to America. U.S. Customs officials, working with their foreign counterparts, would be in a position to detect Weapons of Mass Destruction and other instruments of terror at these foreign ports. Because roughly 68 percent of the 5.7 million sea containers entering the U.S. annually arrive from just 20 foreign seaports, Customs is initially focusing on these "mega" ports as chokepoints in the global trading system.
Under the agreement reached today, Singapore would become the first CSI pilot port in Asia. U.S. Customs is working with Singapore on the details of this project, which would involve placing U.S. Customs inspectors in Singapore. These U.S. Customs inspectors would work jointly with authorities in Singapore to pre-screen cargo containers bound for America. The U.S. Customs inspectors would observe physical examinations conducted on high-risk containers by their Singaporean counterparts.
The port of Singapore is one of the world’s largest. While it ranks second to Hong Kong in terms of number of cargo containers handled, Singapore ranks as the world’s busiest transshipment / transit port. As such, Singapore represents
a key chokepoint in the global trading system for detecting potential items of concern. Approximately 80 percent of the containers handled in Singapore are transshipments. Last year, roughly 330,000 sea cargo containers entered America from the port of Singapore.
Earlier this year, U.S. Customs reached an accord with Canada to exchange Customs inspectors at select seaports to pre-screen containers bound for each nation. In March 2002, teams of U.S. Customs inspectors were placed at the Canadian seaports of Montreal, Halifax, and Vancouver to pre-screen cargo that is offloaded at these ports and bound for the United States. Canadian Customs placed its own inspectors at the U.S. seaports of Seattle, Tacoma and Newark to prescreen cargo that is offloaded at these ports and bound for Canada.
The U.S. Customs Service is currently in discussions with several other nations, including countries in Europe and Asia, about forming partnerships under CSI.