By Leo Ryan, AJOT
While endorsing international criticism against Washington’s recent scan-all legislation on ocean containers entering US ports, Canadian port officials see little impact on their operations due to existing or planned security measures at their facilities.

In general terms, Gary LeRoux, Executive Director of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities (ACPA), affirms that the law taking effect within five years and requiring all arriving containers to be scanned in foreign departure ports will not only be difficult to implement ’ but breaches global trade obligations.

In Canada, such a view has already been forcefully expressed by the Canadian Industrial Transportation Association (CITA), whose shipper/members account for an annual freight bill of C$6 billion. CITA President Bob Ballantyne said the container security issue should have been addressed in such multilateral institutions as the World Customs Organization and the International Maritime Organization.

‘With both Canadian and US governments pressing to sign new trade agreements with other countries, authorities must be mindful of the consequences of hardening borders with stringent security measures,’ LeRoux said.

Among Canadian ports, Halifax has been identified as a potential target due to a regular container feeder service by Icelandic carrier Eimskip to three New England States.

In an interview, however, George Malec, the Halifax Port Authority’s VP for Operations and Business Development, saw no reason for alarm. ‘It will be simple enough for us to carry out in a dedicated area a secondary screening of stockpiled containers from a mothership prior to transfer to a feeder vessel,’ he said.

Hundreds of thousands of containers from Europe destined for the US Midwest and Northeast arrive on ships calling at the Port of Montreal, a major gateway on North America’s East Coast for the Atlantic trade.

However, Dominic Taddeo, President and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority (who will soon retire), feels there is no cause for concern, pointing in particular to the fact that since last May all ocean containers entering Montreal are scanned at a new radiation detection portal installed by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). This has not caused cargo delays, he said.

In this connection, CBSA spokesman Derek Mellon noted that portals have been activated at both Saint John, New Brunswick and Montreal, while new portals are currently being installed in Halifax, Vancouver and Prince Rupert. ‘Where portals are not in place, a variety of other detection equipment is used to screen containers. The overall objective is to screen virtually 100% of all inbound containers in Canada.’

Otherwise, a number of Canadian marine industry executives consider the legislation signed off by President Bush is the product of the current pre-election climate in the United States, and, with time, may undergo major amendments or be dropped altogether between now and the implementation date in 2012.