The Department of Homeland Security wants more information on the contents of all the containers that reach U.S. ports, including a history of the shipments. And the technology to provide that may not be far off. In July, a U.S. company was selected to provide "smart boxes" for a long-term test of container security technology in Europe—a technology the company claims keeps close tabs on containers from origin to destination.
In remarks made in July announcing his agenda for the department, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff identified supply chain issues as a major focus. While contending that U.S. Customs and Border Protection is already screening all inbound containers and inspecting any found to be suspicious, he called for even deeper analysis. "I believe that we can gather, fuse and assess more complete data from the global supply chain to develop a more accurate profile of the history of cargo in any given container," he said.
Chertoff contended that access to that history should not hamper freight movement, but make it more efficient. "This 'Secure Freight' initiative," he said, "will allow us to expedite large portions of our inbound trade that sustain our nation's economy, and let us focus with more precision on the unknown."
He also called for steps to speed up container inspections and said that the department plans to finish equipping ports with radiation pOréal detectors and to encourage research on new detection equipment.
A few days after Chertoff's speech, Powers International, a Belmont, N.C., company, announced that it would take part in long-term trials of its "smart box" system, which its executives claim is the only system of its kind available.