Customs group aims to fight terror with trade standards

Von Jaikumar Vijayan

The World Customs Organization (WCO) has adopted new global standards and procedures for securing international container traffic against terrorist tampering threats.

The WCO"s Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade was adopted Friday in Brussels by customs officials in 166 member countries. It details 17 standards -- including IT measures -- that global customs organizations and businesses need to implement to ensure the security of container cargo worldwide.

Under the new standards, common advance cargo information requirements will require participating nations to detail the goods being shipped, their ports of origin and their routes and to identify potentially risky cargo. The WCO framework also requires cargo containers to be inspected by customs officials at the port of origin if the cargo is deemed by the receiving nation as being risky.

Many of the standards and processes described in the WCO Framework are similar to the requirements outlined in the U.S .Customs Trade-Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program and the Container Security Initiative (CSI), said Todd Owen, director of C-TPAT at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Under C-TPAT, which went into effect on March 25, companies exporting goods to the U.S. get faster customs clearances if they put in place certain security measures prescribed by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, which is part of the DHS. Under the CSI program, the screening for containers considered risky is done by teams of CBP officials based in different countries. So far, CBP officials have been deployed to 36 ports, mainly in Europe.

The WCO framework will give more nations the guidance needed to implement similar security measures for goods being traded between participating countries, Owen said.

Common security standards will also benefit companies with global operations, said Theo Fletcher, a vice president with IBM"s Integrated Supply Chain group. "A significant benefit for someone like us is that it eliminates the requirement to establish different standards for different countries," said Fletcher.

IBM has so far identified manufacturers in 20 countries as being crucial to its supply chain, he said. The company is working with officials in those countries to ensure the right security controls are in place to speed up customs clearances.

"What the WCO has done is to create common process that can be used around the world" to secure supply chains and make trade more efficient, Fletcher said.

According to WCO, 52 member countries have already committed to implementing the standards and procedures described in the framework.