Global resistance is growing to a looming Congressional mandate that will require the scanning of all containers entering U.S. ports by 2012.

The World Customs Organization (WCO) released a new report on Tuesday analyzing the 9/11 Bill’s requirement for 100% cargo scanning – a measure that Le Havre University researchers found will have significant “technical and organizational difficulties.”

The report was most concerned about the high number of unknowns that could impede the implementation of a 100% scanning process at over 600 international ports.  Despite evidence suggesting that the necessary scanning technology could be in place by 2012, there is a long – and frankly, rather concerning – list of other key factors that no one has been able to quantify: the cost of infrastructure and equipment needed to support the technology, the expense of hiring and training staff to use the technology, and the ability to monitor, interpret and asses every image produced by the technology in a timely manner, are only a few of these “problematic” areas the study identifies.

The announcement by the WCO’s Secretary General Michel Danat that accompanied the study’s release also emphasized that his organization has made every effort since 9/11 to strengthen trade security and work with the United States to implement effective risk management processes.   In contrast with the type of comprehensive and multi-layered intelligence process that a vast majority of foreign ports have relied on, a system that mandates 100% cargo scanning (a component of the 9/11 Bill that was never recommended by the 9/11 Commission) might do little to actually improve security and is much more likely to have a significant and harmful effect on the international supply chain.

The report suggests that unless the shipping cost per container is significantly lowered from early estimates, foreign manufacturers might simply avoid exporting to the United States altogether and rely more heavily on ports operated by our neighbors to the north and south.

Members of Congress would be advised to should address the concerns included in this report, which is only one of several early signs of resistance to a 100% scanning regime from the United States’ global trade partners.  Nearly every piece of evidence and practical experience has corroborated what the 9/11 Commission actually suggested in its final report: security at our nation’s ports should be undertaken through a risk-based approached – not through a system that assesses threats indiscriminately and has the potential to hurt an already-suffering global economy.