Customs makes trade security

Customs makes trade security

Trade security has become a high priority at the Customs Service since Sept. 11.

'Before the attacks that day, our main focus was on trade compliance,' Customs commissioner Robert C. Bonner said.

Speaking at a trade symposium last month, Bonner outlined Customs initiatives 'to keep terrorists and the implements of terror out of the United States.'

They include:

  • Getting more accurate and timely advance manifest information on all forms of entry and shipments. The information helps Customs workers sort goods before they arrive at ports so shipments can move faster.

  • Deploying extra inspection technology at seaports and the Canadian border to detect terrorist weapons.

  • Looking for new technology to detect weapons of mass destruction. Customs inspectors in the field use 4,000 radiation detection devices to spot weapons and weapons-grade materials.

  • Working with the Canadian and Mexican governments to increase information exchange and security measures.

    John Pennella, executive director of Customs' Applied Technology Division, said the agency uses X-ray systems that detect narcotics, currency and other prohibited items.

    Inspectors use gamma ray imaging systems to examine trucks, containers, cargo and passenger vehicles for hidden compartments, he said. 'It takes only five to 10 minutes to perform eight to 10 high-quality checks using these systems.'

    S.W. 'Woody' Hall, CIO and assistant commissioner for the Office of Information and Technology, said it was unclear if the Sept. 11 events have affected the Automated Commercial Environment, the agency's embattled effort to modernize its import-export system.

    'The team is looking at sequencing of the projects, but that does not have anything to do with making ACE a counterterrorism tool,' he said. 'First and foremost, it's a trading system and will stay that way.'

    ACE, which received $300 million in funding for next year, will replace the 17-year-old Automated Commercial System, which depends heavily on paper and manual input, and has endured several costly shutdowns due to overloading.
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