Importers Concerned With Port Security Plan

Apparel importers, regularly stressed about the timing of deliveries, are anxious about a House vote set for today on a bill that would require 100 percent...

"But knowing the feds, I expect they won't, which could build in a day or two of delay at ports," Haugen said. "It's not a big deal for us. We just have to monitor ports and see how quickly they implement it."

He said it could create issues in three or four years, but "most of us are worried about getting through this year without worrying about next year."

Another apparel executive, who asked not to be identified, said retailers and importers were already taking steps to help secure the supply chain.

"We do everything possible to be compliant and safe, and even if you take out the nuclear or terrorist threat, we don't want our employees opening up containers that have something bad in them," the executive said. "Our dresses aren't any good if they have anthrax powder in them."

Thompson of RILA said the proposed screening measure raised several concerns, including whether foreign ports would have adequate staff to handle radiation portal monitors and gamma x-ray machines; lack of available technology; the potential elimination of risk-based analysis the Department of Homeland Security currently employs to scan some 5 percent of all cargo containers at foreign ports; the potential refusal of foreign governments to comply; the implications for importers and shippers, and similar demands made of U.S. exporters shipping cargo overseas.

"Let's not put a mandate out there before it is proven whether it will work or not and whether foreign ports will agree to do it and have the adequate staff to do it," Thompson said.

Erik Autor, vice president and international trade counsel for the National Retail Federation, said the implications of the bill appear "fairly innocuous" although it has raised concerns about the costs and lack of available technology associated with complying with using "smart" seals to secure containers.

He said one of the biggest concerns retailers have with the bill is the cost associated with the mandate of container seals that can send a signal to U.S. officials when there has been a breach.

"I think that as a general matter, retailers understand they have to pay for the cost of security," said Autor. "But the market needs to develop the technology first.

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