European businesses bitterly criticize 100% container insepction rule

Published 28 September 2007

European shipowners, port operators, and retailers say 100% container inspection rule will have “disastrous effects” on trade; European customs commissioner say it will result in Europe’s taxpayers footing the bill for U.S. security

European shipowners, port operators, and retailers on Thursday bitterly criticized a U.S. plan to scan all containers entering the country, saying it would have “disastrous effects” on trade. In a letter to Laszlo Kovacs, the European customs commissioner, eighteen business organisations joined to condemn the bill passed in August, which is aimed at thwarting terrorist attacks. “The disastrous effect of the scanning of all European Union export containers on the supply chain is evident,” the letter says. “Operations in European ports would be unreasonably delayed and result in a significant additional demand for storage capacity that many ports already…. have difficulties in meeting. Congestion in ports and in links to the hinterland…. would become unbearable.”

Kovacs has already condemned the measure, saying it would create unfair discrimination against foreign companies and leave Europe’s taxpayers footing the bill for U.S. security. He also believes it is unworkable. The EU favors a system of risk analysis, whereby intelligence officers would assess which containers are likely to be safe. The EU will discuss the plan with the United States at the second meeting of a transatlantic economic council of senior officials and politicians, which aims to harmonise regulations, on 9 November 9.

“We are still asking for clarity from the U.S. about how they intend to enforce this,” said a senior EU official. “Ports need to make investment decisions over a long timeframe.”

Congress passed the law after the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks said terrorists could use containers to conceal bombs or even people. The law should come into effect within five years but DHS has yet to outline how it will operate. Tighter international standards have already forced EU ports to invest a combined $17.7 billion in security.