BY CHRONICLE STAFF
With the additions of two Panamanian container ports last week, a total of seven ports in Latin America have joined the Container Security Initiative of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The CSI, which was launched after the terrorist attacks in 2001, targets and pre-screens high-risk cargo containers destined for the United States.
The ports of Colon and Manzanillo joined CSI on Friday. The two ports, which are located near the Atlantic entrance of the Panama Canal, are together with the Evergreen terminal in the area ranked combined as the second-largest container port in Latin America, according to the 2007 version of Latin America's Top 25 Ports from Latin Business Chronicle.
The other CSI ports are Santos in Brazil (Latin America's largest container port), Cartagena in Colombia, Buenos Aires in Argentina, Puerto Cortes in Honduras, Caucedo in the Dominican Republic and the Port of Balboa near the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal.
CBP declined to provide details of the program's success in Latin America, but stated that it is pleased with the results. "We are happy with the results of the CSI program in Latin America," says Lynn Hollinger, a CBP spokeswoman. "We are happy with the progress and collaboration with our host counterparts."
The cooperation with Latin American counterparts is key to the program, she says. "It is difficult to measure deterrence, so we continue to evaluate the open communications between our officers assigned [in Latin America] and the host nation counter parts," Hollinger says.
Although the CSI program entails the opportunity for Latin American customs officers to participate in inspections of ocean-going, containerized cargo headed for their countries, none have taken advantage of the offer so far. "To date, no Latin American country has sent their Customs officers to a U.S. port," says Hollinger.
KEY TRANSSHIPMENT POINT
Panama is seen as a key transshipment point for cargo headed to the United States. "The initiation of CSI screening operations in Panama will give CBP critical access in Central and South America to scan cargo on maritime vessels before they enter the United States," CBP said in a statement Friday. "The Colon Free Trade Zone is a crossroads for merchandise traffic for the republic where most imports and exports are handled. This Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal is one of the largest port/haven systems in Latin America."
The news of Panama's ports comes two weeks after the port of Cartagena joined CSI. "Everyone benefits from this program,” William Brownfield, the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, said in a statement. “When one thinks about it, there are two groups, two people, that don't benefit from this initiative, and they are criminals and terrorists…and with that result, I am totally satisfied."
In addition to the seven ports in Latin America, CSI also includes two ports in the Caribbean (Kingston and Freeport) and 26 ports in Europe, Asia and Africa. Combined they account for more than 80 percent of all cargo containers destined for U.S. shores, CBP says.
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