View Full Version : Truck Scanners Coming to All Port Terminals

March 23rd, 2004, 12:26 AM
March 23, 2004

Truck Scanners Coming to All Port Terminals


Radiation monitors, like this one over Port Jersey Boulevard in Jersey City, will be used to scan trucks leaving all United States cargo ports.

Handheld radiation isotope monitors were among the equipment unveiled yesterday that will be used to scan cargo for potential risks.

JERSEY CITY, March 22 - Addressing concerns that terrorists could bring nuclear weapons or traditional explosives into the country in containerized cargo, federal customs officials said Monday that New York and New Jersey ports would be the first to have technology to scan every truck leaving American ports.

The scanners, known as portal radiation monitors, will be installed by the end of the summer at all cargo terminals operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey - Newark, Jersey City, Bayonne, Elizabeth, Staten Island and Brooklyn - said Commissioner Robert C. Bonner of the United States Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. Customs officers will operate the monitors. By the end of the year, the systems will be in place nationwide at all port terminals receiving waterborne cargo, Mr. Bonner said.

The monitors, housed in frames of bright yellow I-beams that arch over the roadways leading out of cargo terminals at the ports, are intended as the last line of defense in what Mr. Bonner called a "layered" system of detection. That system begins with the identification and search of high-risk United States-bound cargo at overseas ports, a computerized tracking system that further identifies any cargo posing a security risk 24 hours before it arrives, and the checking of the containers at dockside with handheld equipment and X-rays if necessary. That process will now end with the scanning of trucks carrying the containers as they leave the terminal.

"This will increase the ability of U.S. Customs to detect dirty bombs and other radiological materials," said Mr. Bonner, standing in the spindly shadow of one of the first of the portals here at Global Marine Terminal. "This will screen every container for radiation before it leaves the terminal, adding another level of security. As a result America is safer and its people are safer."

About 11,000 vessels carrying three million shipping containers pass through New York and New Jersey ports each year, Port Authority officials have said.

The agency has yet to develop similar monitoring devices for containers that leave the port by rail, said industry officials and other agency planners. In the case of the New York-New Jersey area, that amounts to about 10 to 15 percent of the cargo shipped into the seaport, but it is much more in ports like Seattle and Long Beach, Calif. Edward Hotchkiss, acting assistant area director for seaport operations, said the Customs and Border Protection agency was looking at "choke points" within the terminals where monitoring devices could be installed and developing monitoring systems that can be moved from one siding to another.

The announcement on Monday came nearly two and half years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which sparked concern about the risks of terrorism breaching the shores of the United States by ship. The area's ports were closed for a day after the attacks, and immediately afterward the Coast Guard increased its checks on incoming vessels, and other federal agencies began working on programs to improve monitoring of ships, crews and cargoes.

Mr. Bonner said that so far no illicit radiological devices had been detected by the monitoring and security efforts already in effect, and many tools of those efforts were on display at the news conference. They included handheld radio isotope identifiers, which tell their operators what kind of radiation is emanating from a container; ultrasonic thickness gauges which can detect hollowed-out cargo; infrared devices that detect hot and cold spots in cargo; and portable explosives detectors, which can detect the plasma signatures of everything from nitroglycerine to ammonium nitrate.

Using such devices in September 2002 as they boarded the Palermo Senator, a German cargo ship, while it was entering New York Harbor, customs inspectors detected traces of radioactivity. The ship, bound from Spain, was held six miles at sea for two days before it was determined that detection equipment was being triggered by normally occurring background radiation given off by ceramic tiles that were among the cargo.

Mr. Bonner said that this happened before the introduction of a system that provides extensive computerized listings of all cargo bound for the United States so that the agency can identify "high-risk" cargo that requires closer inspection about 24 hours before it leaves for the United States. Such a system would have caught the ceramic tiles, said Mr. Bonner, adding that if it did not, the portal radiation monitors would.

Chris Koch, executive director of the World Shipping Council, a trade group, applauded the portal radiation monitoring system and said such measures were effective without being disruptive. Similar portals are needed at foreign ports, he said, noting that Europe's largest port, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, was doing just that.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

March 23rd, 2004, 03:00 PM
I would just like to add that Jersey City is the first port not just in the harbor area to have these but also we are first in the country to have it. Way to go JC!!