Chertoff: Shipping firms need to invest in tracking systems

Private shippers should invest in IT that can monitor the contents of their container shipments bound for U.S. ports in order to speed their security processing, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in a speech in Singapore yesterday.

"We're going to be looking, in the next year or two, to build capacity to have better information about what's in containers," Chertoff told the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore.

"We're going to look to the private sector to pioneer in this: to develop better databases and better control over what are the constituents of the containers, and to work to assimilate that information, and be able to present it to our officials in a way that is readily available and can be readily analyzed," he said.

"The more the private sector is prepared to assemble this information and make it available, and to invest in security for the containers, the less likely it is that their containers will be stopped and inspected on the U.S. side, and the quicker the material will get to where it has to go," Chertoff said. "Investments up front and an hour or two ahead of time ? can save days and weeks at the receiving end."

Chertoff said the screenings will include data about the shipper, consignee, payment method and information about the history of transactions, including these and other parties.

He also indicated that work is under way to implement identification screening and background checks for port workers in the United States.

"In our own country we are?a little bit overdue on unveiling our Transportation Worker Identification Credential for the ports. But this year we will get well underway in getting the kind of screening and background checking for port workers in the U.S. that is appropriate, given the fact that our ports are a very significant piece of critical infrastructure," Chertoff said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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