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NRF voices support for the SMART Port Security Act

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
June 06, 2012

The National Retail Federation (NRF) yesterday threw its support behind a piece of supply chain security legislation focusing on ports.

The bill—entitled H.R. 4251, the Securing Maritime Activities through Risk-Based Targeting for Port Security Act (SMART Port Security Act)—was introduced in March by Representative Candice Miller (R-Mich.).

It leverages 2006’s SAFE Port Act and focuses on: enhancing security measures overseas before security threats reach U.S. shores; securing the supply chain through the use of a risk-based methodology; encouraging the Department of Homeland Security components with shared jurisdiction to cooperate in maritime operations and partner with state and local law enforcement agencies in order to enhance U.S. maritime security; and find cost savings through increased collaboration with international, federal, state, and local partners. The maritime security-based components of the report include:
-a strategic plan to enhance the security of the international supply chain;
-Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT);
-recognition of other countries’ trusted shipper programs;
-a pilot program for the inclusion of non-asset based 3PLs in C-TPAT; and
-Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) reform, among others.

In a letter to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, Ranking Member Bennie Thompson and other committee members regarding the SMART Port Security Act, David French, NRF Senior Vice President, Government Relations, said that that the NRF supports the bill, explaining that it acknowledges the great success of the multi-layered risk-based approach that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have taken to strengthen supply chain security.

French also noted that the NRF appreciates the requirement to identify and address current gaps and redundancies in supply chain security, explaining that with the myriad agencies involved in supply chain security, it is critical for the importing community that the U.S. government speaks with one clear voice on supply chain security requirements and eliminates any duplication of requirements.

The one caveat in the NRF’s support of the bill, wrote French, is that the organization feels it could be augmented with a provision to waive the requirements of the 9/11 Act, which requires the scanning of all maritime containers overseas.

“We do not believe the ‘scan all’ requirement improves supply chain security,” wrote French. “As CBP has indicated in several Congressional reports, there have been continual technological problems, significant costs, resistance from foreign governments and delays at some ports. In statements before Congress, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano stated that the requirement is ‘impractical.’  As such, DHS recently submitted a letter asking for the two year waiver for implementation as allowed under the 9/11 Act. We believe Congress should take this one step further and permanently waive the requirement for the reasons laid out by DHS.”

NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jon Gold told LM that one of the main things this bill does is to encourage DHS to really identify where the current supply chain security gaps are and determine what is needed to fill those gaps in.

“We are really trying to figure out what gaps still exist,” said Gold. “A lot of times when talking about port security, container security, and cargo security, it is basically left up to DHS to assess what is needed and not covered by the current programs. With the amount of time, money, and effort our members have put into supply chain security, there is a lot being done, from working with overseas vendors and making sure they have security in place from point of manufacturing throughout the supply chain and have used data we have provided to Customs to do their targeting, and Customs working with other Customs agencies on their proposals [to see] what else is out there that we are not doing. There are other risks to the supply chain, too, like the small vessel threat like what happened with the U.S.S. Cole.”

In regards to the NRF’s push to waive the overseas container scanning requirement, Gold explained that if it is not removed it could have a significant negative impact on global commerce in that it would slow down global and domestic port operations and efficiencies, with United States global trade partners wanting U.S.-based containers to be scanned prior to arrival as well. And neither U.S. nor global ports are equipped to do that at the moment, he said.

A major reason for this, he said, is cost uncertainty, coupled with the fact that there are no federally-allocated resources for it. And container scanning technology is not sophisticated enough either, said Gold.

A noted supply chain security expert sided with the NRF’s push to nix overseas container scanning.

“I fully agree that we need to remove the mandate for 100% scanning/x-ray of containers overseas,” said Albert Saphir, principal of ABS Consulting in Weston Fla.. “As everyone has stated many times this makes no sense and it is time to focus our resources and efforts on more productive and realistic areas.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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