From the UK’s Financial Times: “Brussels attacks American plan to scan shipping containers”

“A US plan to have all shipping containers scanned for security reasons would disrupt trade without diminishing the terrorist threat, the European Union said yesterday.

“In a strongly worded statement, Laszlo Kovacs, the European customs commissioner, said the unilateral action would force Europe’s taxpayers to foot the bill for US security.

“Mr. Kovacs said: ‘Experts on both sides of the Atlantic have already considered this measure to be of no real benefit when it comes to improving security while it would disrupt trade and cost legitimate EU and US businesses a lot of time and money.’

“The US Congress passed the bill last week.

“While EU ports would suffer, Asia would be worse off. Giant hubs such as Singapore and Hong Kong deal with tens of thousands of containers daily.

“While 1.8m 20ft-equivalent containers were sent from Europe to the US in 2006, according to London-based Drewry Shipping Consultants, there were 13.7m from Asia.

“Mr. Kovacs said the US had acted unilaterally before co-operation between the two blocs had been tried. ‘I also regret that the USA did not await the results of the pilot actions that the EU and US customs are about to launch before pressing ahead with this piece of legislation.’

“The European Commission said the law, which would take effect within five years, would place a ‘very heavy financial burden on EU business and ultimately its taxpayers’ and require huge restructuring by ports.

“Many are already cramped for space and would find it hard to establish extra sheds and storage areas for scanning.

“Brussels is examining whether the law breaches World Trade Organization and World Customs Organization rules.

“Mr. Kovacs said: ‘instead of 100% scanning, I advocate applying risk analysis for the selection of cargo containers to be checked prior to leaving the EU for the US. This would find a balance between legitimate trade facilitation and customs security, an approach that the European Union has always supported’ …”

So, what would it cost the taxpayers? “It would be hard to quantify the price of scanning, though each container movement cost around $ 30 to $ 50, said Drewry Shipping Consultants.” [Whew!]