Koch: Shipper could be caught in security issues of non-US ports

March, 12 2004

Christopher Koch, president and chief executive officer of the World Shipping Council, the Washington-based representing liner carriers, warned that shippers could be caught if certain non-US ports fail to meet the July 1 deadline of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code. "It would appear likely… that not all foreign port facilities will be compliant on July 1", Koch told a conference in Long Beach Tuesday. Koch suggested that ports that are late in their compliance duty will be in developing countries, but did not name specific ports. Koch believes that the United States will not stop trade in July with countries that have not complied with the security code by then. "However, the issue is how will ISPS compliant vessels be treated by the US Coast Guard and other nations when they arrive after having called at a foreign port facility that does not have and ISPS compliant facility security plan", he said. "Vessels calling between such ports and the cargo on those vessels are caught in the middle," he warned. "It is not yet clear what a vessel can expect in these situations". Shippers too should expect consequences to cargo that passes through non-compliant facilities, Koch noted. "Those consequences may become more substantial as time passes and the government becomes less tolerant of foreign ports that are not compliant with the code," he said. For example, Koch suggested it is possible that US Bureau of Customs and Border Protection's Automated Tergeting System may assign a higher security risk to cargo containers transiting through non-ISPS Code compliant facilities, and thus make it more likely such containers will be held up for inspection. The United States and other ISPS compliant nations are likely to take actions "that will cause carriers and shippers to have a common interest in strongly supporting efforts by all countries to become compliant as soon as possible," Koch predicted. Koch believes US port facilities will meet the July 1 deadline for compliance with the security code, and so will liner shipping operators. "Discussions with our member lines' representatives have identified no significant problems regarding lines' expectations of their vessels being compliant by that time," Koch said. The forecast of the possibility of ports failing to meet the security deadline by the World Shipping Council follows warning by the World Customs Organization and others that developing countries lack the funds required to enhance their transport security. Commenting on the inspection of containers, Koch said that, today, US Customs uses the Automated Targeting System to screen 100% of all suspicious containers before they are loaded aboard a vessel bound for the United States. As it has refined the Automated Targetins System, Customs has increased the proportion of containers inspected from less than 2% of all containers before Sept. 11 to 5.4%, the World Shipping Council said, quoting recent reports. "That means that Customs is now inspecting almost 400,000 ocean containers a year," Koch said. "We expect container inspections to continue to increase in 2004".

American Shipper