Container Security Initiative

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The Container Security Initiative (CSI) was launched in 2002 by the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), an agency of the Department of Homeland Security. Its purpose was to increase security for container cargo shipped to the United States. As the CBP puts it, the intent is to "extend [the] zone of security outward so that American borders are the last line of defense, not the first."

U.S. Customs and Border Protection department of the United States Federal Government

United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the largest federal law enforcement agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security, and is the country's primary border control organization. It is charged with regulating and facilitating international trade, collecting import duties, and enforcing U.S. regulations, including trade, customs, and immigration. CBP is one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the United States. It has a workforce of more than 45,600 sworn federal agents and officers. It has its headquarters in Washington, D.C.

United States Department of Homeland Security cabinet department of the United States federal government

The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a cabinet department of the U.S. federal government with responsibilities in public security, roughly comparable to the interior or home ministries of other countries. Its stated missions involve anti-terrorism, border security, immigration and customs, cyber security, and disaster prevention and management. It was created in response to the September 11 attacks and is the youngest U.S. cabinet department.

Cargo goods or produce transported

In economics, cargo or freight refers to goods or produce being conveyed – generally for commercial gain – by water, air or land. Cargo was originally a shipload. Cargo now covers all types of freight, including that carried by train, van, truck, or intermodal container. The term cargo is also used in case of goods in the cold-chain, because the perishable inventory is always in transit towards a final end-use, even when it is held in cold storage or other similar climate-controlled facility.



Containerized shipping is a critical component of international trade. According to the CBP:

Containerization Intermodal freight transport system

Containerization is a system of intermodal freight transport using intermodal containers. The containers have standardized dimensions. They can be loaded and unloaded, stacked, transported efficiently over long distances, and transferred from one mode of transport to another—container ships, rail transport flatcars, and semi-trailer trucks—without being opened. The handling system is completely mechanized so that all handling is done with cranes and special forklift trucks. All containers are numbered and tracked using computerized systems.

International trade exchange of capital, goods, and services across international borders or territories

International trade is the exchange of capital, goods, and services across international borders or territories.

Container ship cargo ship

Container ships are cargo ships that carry all of their load in truck-size intermodal containers, in a technique called containerization. They are a common means of commercial intermodal freight transport and now carry most seagoing non-bulk cargo.

As terrorist organizations have increasingly turned to destroying economic infrastructure to make an impact on nations, the vulnerability of international shipping has come under scrutiny. Under the CSI program, the screening of containers that pose a risk for terrorism is accomplished by teams of CBP officials deployed to work in concert with their host nation counterparts.

Terrorism use of violence and intimidation against civilians in order to further a political goal

Terrorism is, in the broadest sense, the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror among masses of people; or fear to achieve a religious or political aim. It is used in this regard primarily to refer to violence during peacetime or in war against non-combatants. The terms "terrorist" and "terrorism" originated during the French Revolution of the late 18th century but gained mainstream popularity in the 1970s in news reports and books covering the conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Basque Country and Palestine. The increased use of suicide attacks from the 1980s onwards was typified by the September 11 attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. in 2001.

A nation is a stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, history, ethnicity, or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture. A nation is distinct from a people, and is more abstract, and more overtly political, than an ethnic group. It is a cultural-political community that has become conscious of its autonomy, unity, and particular interests.

CSI core elements

Gamma-ray image of a truck with cargo container Mobile VACIS Gamma-ray Image.jpeg
Gamma-ray image of a truck with cargo container

CSI consists of four core elements:

Cargo scanning

Cargo scanning or non-intrusive inspection (NII) refers to non-destructive methods of inspecting and identifying goods in transportation systems. It is often used for scanning of intermodal freight shipping containers. In the US it is spearheaded by the Department of Homeland Security and its Container Security Initiative (CSI) trying to achieve one hundred percent cargo scanning by 2012 as required by the US Congress and recommended by the 9/11 Commission. In the US the main purpose of scanning is to detect special nuclear materials (SNMs), with the added bonus of detecting other types of suspicious cargo. In other countries the emphasis is on manifest verification, tariff collection and the identification of contraband. In February 2009, approximately 80% of US incoming containers were scanned. In order to bring that number to 100% researchers are evaluating numerous technologies, described in the following sections.

The initial CSI program has focused on implementation at the top 20 ports shipping approximately two-thirds of the container volume to the United States. Smaller ports, however, have been added to the program at their instigation, and participation is open to any port meeting certain volume, equipment, procedural, and information-sharing requirements. Future plans include expansion to additional ports based on volume, location, and strategic concerns.

Much of the original idea behind the CSI program stemmed from the work of James Giermanski, who was an early proponent of Supply Chain Security.

James Giermanski United States Air Force, Office of Special Investigations (retired)

James Giermanski is a specialist in Supply Chain Security and Container Shipping programs of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Former U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, former FBI (ret.)

Global impact

The CSI program offers its participant countries the reciprocal opportunity to enhance their own incoming shipment security. CSI partners can send their customs officers to major U.S. ports to target ocean-going, containerized cargo to be exported from the U.S. to their countries. Likewise, CBP shares information on a bilateral basis with its CSI partners. Japan and Canada are currently taking advantage of this reciprocity.

CSI has also inspired and informed global measures to improve shipping security. In June 2002, the World Customs Organization unanimously passed a resolution that will enable ports in all 161 of the member nations to begin to develop programs along the CSI model. On 22 April 2004, the European Union and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security signed an agreement that calls for the prompt expansion of CSI throughout the European Community.

Participating ports

U.S. ports

Foreign ports

47 foreign CSI ports are operational as of 2006-09-29. They include:

  • Halifax, Montreal, and Vancouver, Canada (March 2002)
  • Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2002-09-02)
  • Le Havre, France (2002-12-02)
  • Marseille, France (2005-01-07)
  • Bremerhaven, Germany (2003-02-02)
  • Hamburg, Germany (2003-02-09)
  • Antwerp, Belgium (2003-02-23)
  • Zeebrugge, Belgium (2004-10-29)
  • Singapore (2003-03-10)
  • Yokohama, Japan (2003-03-24)
  • Tokyo, Japan (2004-05-21)
  • Hong Kong, China (2003-05-05)
  • Gothenburg, Sweden (2003-05-23)
  • Felixstowe, United Kingdom (UK) (2003-05-24)
  • Liverpool, Thamesport, Tilbury, and Southampton, UK. (2004-11-01)
  • Genoa, Italy (2003-06-16)
  • La Spezia, Italy (2003-06-23)
  • Livorno, Italy (2004-12-30)
  • Naples, Italy (2004-09-30)
  • Gioia Tauro, Italy (2004-10-31)
  • Pusan, Korea (2003-08-04)
  • Durban, South Africa (2003-12-01)
  • Port Klang, Malaysia (2004-03-08)
  • Tanjung Pelepas, Malaysia (2004-08-16)
  • Piraeus, Greece (2004-07-27)
  • Algeciras, Spain (2004-07-30)
  • Nagoya and Kobe, Japan (2004-08-06)
  • Laem Chabang, Thailand (2004-08-13)
  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) (2005-03-26)
  • Shanghai, China (2005-04-28)
  • Shenzhen, China (2005-06-24)
  • Kaohsiung, Republic of China (Taiwan) (2005-07-25)
  • Santos, Brazil (2005-09-22)
  • Colombo, Sri Lanka (2005-09-29)
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina (2005-11-17)
  • Lisbon, Portugal (2005-12-14)
  • Port Salalah, Oman (2006-03-08)
  • Puerto Cortes, Honduras (2006-03-25)
  • Caucedo, Dominican Republic (2006)
  • Kingston, Jamaica (2006)
  • Freeport, Bahamas (2006)

There are currently 58 foreign ports participating in the Container Security Initiative, accounting for 85 percent of container traffic bound for the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Currently Operational Ports [1]

In the Americas

  • Montreal, Vancouver, and Halifax, Canada (March 2002)
  • Santos, Brazil
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Puerto Cortes*, Honduras
  • Caucedo, Dominican Republic
  • Kingston, Jamaica
  • Freeport, The Bahamas
  • Balboa, Colon, and Manzanillo, Panama
  • Cartagena, Colombia

In Europe:

  • Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2002-09-02)
  • Bremerhaven and Hamburg, Germany
  • Antwerp and Zeebrugge, Belgium
  • Le Havre and Marseille, France
  • Gothenburg, Sweden
  • La Spezia, Genoa, Naples, Gioia Tauro, and Livorno, Italy
  • Felixstowe, Liverpool, Thamesport, Tilbury, and Southampton, United Kingdom (U.K.)
  • Piraeus, Greece
  • Algeciras, Barcelona, and Valencia, Spain
  • Lisbon, Portugal

In Asia and the Middle East

  • Singapore*
  • Yokohama, Tokyo, Nagoya, and Kōbe, Japan
  • Hong Kong
  • Busan* (Pusan), South Korea
  • Port Klang and Tanjung Pelepas, Malaysia
  • Laem Chabang, Thailand
  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • Shenzhen and Shanghai
  • Kaohsiung and Chi-Lung
  • Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Port Salalah*, Oman
  • Port Qasim, Pakistan
  • Ashdod, Israel
  • Haifa, Israel

In Africa:

  • Alexandria, Egypt
  • Durban, South Africa

See also


This article incorporates text from the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection's pages and documents on the Container Security Initiative, modified for a more global perspective.

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