Container Security Initiative: just the facts



US Customs and Border Protection, Washington, D.C., USA


In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, US Customs Service, now US Customs and Border Protection, began developing antiterrorism  programmes to help secure the United States. Within months of these attacks, US Customs Service created the Container Security Initiative (CSI). The primary purpose of CSI is to protect the global trading system and the trade lanes between CSI ports and the US Under the CSI programme, a team of officers is deployed to work with host nation counterparts to target all containers that pose a potential threat.

Announced in January 2002, CSI was first implemented in the ports shipping the greatest volume of containers to the United States. Today, customs administrations all over the world have committed to joining CSI and are at various stages of implementation. CSI is now operational at ports in North, Central, and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and throughout Asia.

In October 2007, the US Customs and Border Protection released a fact sheet to better explain what the CSI is and how it works. We feature an abridged version here. Please visit for more details.

How does CSI work?

CSI addresses the threat to border security and global trade that is posed by potential terrorist use of a maritime container to deliver a weapon. CSI uses a security regime to ensure all containers that pose a potential risk for terrorism are identified and inspected at foreign ports before they are placed on vessels destined for the
United Sates. Through CSI, CBP officials work with host customs administrations to establish security criteria for identifying highrisk containers. Those administrations use non-intrusive inspection (NII) and radiation detection technology to screen high-risk containers before they are shipped to US ports.

What are CSI’s core elements?

The three core elements of CSI are:

• Identify high-risk containers. CBP uses automated targeting tools to identify containers that pose a potential risk for terrorism, based on advance information and strategic intelligence.

• Prescreen and evaluate containers before they are shipped. Containers are screened as early in the supply chain as possible, generally at the port of departure.

• Use technology to prescreen high-risk containers to ensure that screening can be done rapidly without slowing down the movement of trade. This technology includes large-scale X-ray and gamma ray machines and radiation detection devices.

What are CSI’s future goals?

Currently, approximately 90 per cent of all transatlantic and transpacific cargo imported into the United States is subjected to prescreening. CSI continues to expand to strategic locations around the world. The World Customs Organization (WCO), the European Union (EU), and the G8 support CSI expansion and have adopted resolutions implementing CSI security measures introduced at ports throughout the world.

Does the US offer reciprocity with CSI participating countries?

Yes. CSI, a reciprocal programme, offers its participant countries the opportunity to send their customs officers to major US ports to target ocean-going, containerised cargo being exported to their countries. Likewise, CBP shares information on a bilateral basiswith its CSI partners. Japan and Canada currently station their customs personnel in some US ports as part of the CSI programme.

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