The Cost of Ports Security

A reader writes:

I work in international shipping and I would love to see examinations of all containers. However I wonder where this $20 per container fee comes from. Presently the customs vacis exam (x-ray) costs between $300 - $400 per container, depending on which terminal is involved. If the container is then tagged for a full physical exam, the charge is an additional $750 -$900.

This plan also doesn't seem to include associated port storage costs. Once a container arrives at the port it has 5 days to be picked up before heavy demurrage charges are incurred. Presently custom exams can cause 10-15 day delays. Demurrage usually runs at about $100 per day. The cost to the consumer will far exceed $20 per day. The direct cost would be huge, not to mention the expense of severely constricting the supply chain.

The real issue is man power. Customs and Border Protection can't keep up with exams at the current level. In order to complete a 100 percent exam rate, the number of workers for CBP will need to be increased drastically.

I work in international house hold goods moving and I have seen first hand the incompetence of CBP. Just last week, we imported a house hold goods shipment from South Korea that contained two hand guns. The guns were undeclared and unmanifested. The customer was an ex-military man who was returning and he told us about the guns only after the shipment was placed on a customs hold. Even after the full physical exam, the guns were not found! Scary, especially when you consider that house hold goods are considered a high risk commodity by the newly formed Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. It is not a question of if, it is a question of when.

Port security needs to be drastically improved but we need to be honest about the costs and the negative effect it will have on commerce and industry.

I think Americans are more than ready for an honest debate about the true costs of real border protection. And the true costs of staying as we are.