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Case for 100-Percent Scanning: Not Proven

NCJ Number
Homeland Defense Journal Volume: 5 Issue: 11 Dated: November 2007 Pages: 16,18,21
Eric Watkins
Date Published
November 2007
5 pages
This article contrasts the U.S. Congress' support of inspection of all shipping containers entering the United States (100-percent scanning) and the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS's) and foreign ports' preferences for selective inspections based on a layered, risk-management approach.
Two years ago, Science Applications International Corp., a San Diego-based company, installed a scanning system for Modern Terminals, a private company that operates one of Hong Kong's nine mega-terminals. The scanning system uses gamma rays to scan the inside of shipping containers trucked into the terminal before being loaded onto ships. According to Modern Terminals' officials, every truck that comes through the main gate hauling a container passes through the scanning system, which also captures images of the container's unique identification numbers. All of this information can be transferred to the United States well before the ship arrives. Believing that if Hong Kong can use this new technology successfully to scan 100 percent of container traffic then any port can use it, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law No. 110-53, which gives DHS 5 years to have the system in place at the more than 600 foreign ports that load U.S.-bound ships. The view of the U.S. Congress and other proponents of 100-percent scanning is not uniformly shared around the world, especially among ports, carriers, and shippers. The European Union (EU), as well as DHS, favors a risk-based approach to cargo security, using computer programs to identify shipping alerts/warning signs and selectively determine which containers to inspect rather than scan every container. The EU is expected to continue pressing the issue under the Transatlantic Economic Council, which intends to assist in reducing regulatory barriers between the United States and the EU.