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US customs start work

PUBLISHED: 17:00 05 June 2003 | UPDATED: 13:57 03 March 2010

FOUR American Customs officers begin work at Felixstowe port this week to help with the war against terrorism.

As revealed by the Evening Star six months ago, the officers will not be on operational duties but gathering intelligence and helping to identify suspicious cargo which could pose a terrorist risk.

FOUR American Customs officers begin work at Felixstowe port this week to help with the war against terrorism.

As revealed by the Evening Star six months ago, the officers will not be on operational duties but gathering intelligence and helping to identify suspicious cargo which could pose a terrorist risk.

It is understood the officers will be looking for "dirty bombs" and other smuggled weapons and explosives, especially in cargo bound for the USA.

America's main fear is that a ship could sail into a harbour in the middle of a large city and a bomb could spread germ material over a densely-populated area.

The US Customs and Border Protection Agency officers will work side-by-side with UK Customs and Excise officers at Felixstowe in a new intelligence-sharing partnership as part of the Container Security Initiative (CSI).

Customs Minister John Healey said: "Terrorism is a real and serious threat. That's why we have to work even more closely with our partners overseas and play a full part in tackling it.

"Co-operation between enforcement agencies and intelligence sharing in this way is the key to fighting terrorism."

US Customs commissioner Robert C Bonner said: "I applaud the British government's strong support in helping to make a safer, more secure world trading system. CSI is essential in securing an indispensable, but vulnerable link in the chain of global trade containerised shipping.

"CSI is the only formal program in operation today that is designed to detect and deter terrorists from exploiting the vulnerabilities of containerised cargo.

"We are getting CSI implemented in all of the ports that have signed on. We will continue to deploy teams to other participating ports as quickly as possible."

Liverpool, Southampton, Tilbury and Thamesport are included on a trial basis in the initiative.

Seven other European countries have also signed the CSI – The Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, France and Italy.

The CSI agreement is causing some concern in Europe because the EU wanted its own continent-wide agreement. Commissioners say states which choose to go it alone are breaching EU rules and it has already threatened four nations with court action..

The concern is that ports which have the "protection" of American Customs officers for their US-bound cargo will have an unfair trade advantage.

WEBLINKS: www.hmce.gov.uk

www.usembassy.org.uk

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