Portland, Maine and Charleston, South Carolina USA

Port Notes

October 16, 2013

From the Desk of Capt. Jeff Monroe


The GAO has released its report, Supply Chain Security: DHS Could Improve Cargo Security by Periodically Assessing Risks from Foreign Ports (open hyperlink at GAO-13-764 and click on “view report” pdf). Congress requested this report after the White House released its new National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security in January 2012. That strategy called for a risk-based approach to supply chain security, and GAO’s objectives were to determine the extent that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has (1) assessed risks associated with foreign ports, and (2) taken actions to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of its maritime supply chain security programs. Most of GAO’s focus was on the Coast Guard and Customs components of DHS. To conduct the work, GAO met with officials from the U.S. and foreign governments, and international and industry stakeholders, and also visited 6 foreign ports that participated in the Container Security Initiative (CSI). The CSI program stations US Customs officials at selected foreign ports to identify high risk containers and to work with foreign customs officials to scan such containers to ensure they do not contain weapons of mass destruction or other terrorist contraband.

GAO found that the Coast Guard has a model to assess risks as part of its International Port Security program. The Coast Guard updates its port risk assessments annually, and uses the assessments to deploy its personnel to inspect foreign ports, and to otherwise inform resource decisions related to the program (e.g., decide what countries to help with technical assistance).

In contrast, GAO found that Customs had not done an assessment of risk at foreign ports related to its CSI program since 2005. Customs did work with the Department of Energy and intelligence agencies to develop a more sophisticated model for assessing risks at ports in 2009, as part of Customs’ efforts to expand pilot ports to scan 100% of cargo containers bound for the United States. However, Customs never applied that model to assess the validity of its CSI locations. GAO was able to re-run this model at ports where updated 2012 information was available for both port risks and CSI. This updated model looked at risks at 137 ports and found that of the 57 relevant CSI locations, only 27 CSI locations were in ports ranked in the top 50 for risk, 18 CSI locations were in ports ranked from 51-100 (or medium) for risk, and 12 CSI locations were in ports ranked 101 or lower for risk. That is, the CSI program did not have a presence in about half of the highest risk ports, and did have a presence in several of the lowest risk ports. Thus, the CSI programs current locations may not be in alignment with the highest-risk ports, providing opportunities to improve the program.

GAO also found that both Coast Guard and Customs had taken steps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their supply chain security programs. Both agencies had negotiated mutual recognition arrangements, where the United States and other countries recognized each other’s programs to inspect ports and partner with industry to improve security. Customs had also looked for more efficient ways to deploy its agents overseas, bringing many of them back to the United States but retaining the ability to remotely target containers at foreign ports. In certain agreeable countries, Customs had also expanded the scope of the CSI program to target beyond terrorist contraband to illegal drugs or violations of intellectual property.

GAO recommended that Customs periodically assess the supply chain security risks from all foreign ports that ship cargo to the United States, and use these assessments to (1) inform any expansion of CSI to additional ports, and (2) determine whether changes need to be made to existing CSI ports. The agency concurred with the recommendation. The report contains an appendix on CSI ports and their targeting approach. The back of the report contains a list (and hyperlinks) of related GAO reports on supply chain security.

For more information, contact: Stephen L. Caldwell, Director, Maritime and Supply Chain Security Issues, Homeland Security and Justice Team, US Government Accountability Office, (202) 512-9610


Our congratulations to the latest class of Certified Port Executives

  • Wong Ming Guang, Manager-International Terminals, Jurong Port Singapore
  • Evan Smithanik, Business Analyst, Prince Rupert Port Authority
  • Jeff Stromdahl, Trade Development Associate, Prince Rupert Port Authority
  • Alexander Jaskiewick, Control Room Coordinator, Ridley Terminals, Inc.
  • Ed Kwan, Vice President of Human Resources, TSI-Global Terminals
  • Mark Jacobson, Director Terminal Operations, Canpotex
  • Ken Hall, Superintendent, Elk Falls Terminal

Capt. Jeffrey W. Monroe, MM, MTM, CPE
Senior Transportation and Maritime Consultant
O: 207-741-7000
C: 207-615-7989


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