The findings of a study commissioned by the WCO show that global trade, shipping, port and customs administrations would have to undergo significant and costly changes to accommodate the US Congress legislation passed in 2007. This mandates that by July 2012 all containers destined for the US must be scanned prior to loading at the port of origin.

The report says increased pressure on the global maritime logistics chain may be perceived as a disguised protectionist measure to transfer security risks to international trading partners. It also says, however, that the new law may be a genuine attempt to guarantee trade flows through security measures.

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Technical and organisational difficulties of bringing 100% scanning of US-bound exports into operation by 2012 include cost of infrastructure and equipment; port risk management; hiring and training staff; the inability to monitor, interpret and assess every image in a timely manner.

Due to complex factors, the effectiveness of applying a blanket approach to ensure the security of shipments is questionable, according to the study.

WCO secretary-general Michel Danet said it was important to find a solution that would provide the US with the added security it seeks but that would also not burden global trade unnecessarily.