Importers attack US bill to scan containers

Legislation is afoot! To scan containers entering the US! Actual security of ports! The legislation itself still requires congressional approval proper, but I cannot express my surprise that such legislation was even formed. Six years is better late than never, right?

All cargo going into the US on ships would have to undergo thorough screening at foreign ports under new legislation agreed by key congressional committees, in a move attacked on Wednesday by the shipping industry as a recipe for chaos.

The US Senate and House homeland security committees reached a deal late on Tuesday evening over legislation aimed at implementing recommendations made by the 9/11 commission established to investigate the 2001 terrorist attacks on the US.

But:

James Carafano, a homeland security expert at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, said the requirement was “political theatre” because there was not a sufficient threat to justify the draconian move, which he said would unnecessarily antagonise US allies.

By “not a sufficient threat”, does he mean his boss just doesn’t have a gut feeling about it? The only theatre involved here is the absurd one in which we’re to believe the Department of Homeland Security is competent. Speaking of which, a little later in the Financial Times’ article:

Erik Autor, vice-president for international trade at the National Retail Federation, said there would be significant technical challenges in meeting the bill’s requirements.

He questioned, for example, whether the Department of Homeland Security had the resources to examine promptly the millions of images that would be created annually of containers scanned at overseas ports.

Yes, six years on and there’s the risk that proper legislation aimed at securing US ports may not work because the Department of Homeland Security, with its under-funding for actual operations and 25% vacancy rates, just can’t do the bloody job.

Personally I think this is furphy more than legitimate criticism. Like many countries ports are too slow, labour is too expensive to hire more (of), etc. This is about the bottom line of importers, not the bottom line on security. Should the legislation proceed, the clamouring for government hand-outs (true conservatism at work: hand-outs for industry while 83-year-old steam pipes in Manhattan blow sky-high) to firms ‘hurt’ will drown out anything else. That sound you just heard was the collective erections on K-street.

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