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February 12, 2002

DOT Inspector General probes hazmat container safety
The Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation has launched a probe of hazmat container safety and security at U.S. seaports.

In a memorandum to the U.S. Coast Guard Chief of Staff, dated Feb. 7, Thomas J. Howard, Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Maritime and Highway Safety Programs says that the Office of Inspector General is initiating a survey of cargo container safety and security at U.S. seaports. The objective is to determine whether theCoast Guard's container inspection program (CIP) adequately ensures the safety and security of hazardous material freight containers shipped through U.S. seaports.

"Specifically," says the memo, "we will evaluate the adequacy of: (1) Coast Guard's policies, practices, and equipment used to inspect freight containers carrying hazardous materials; (2) training, experience, and qualification of inspection personnel; and, (3) existing program information gathering infrastructure used to identify, track, and intercept containers posing a potential safety or security risk."

"We will also identify, document, and analyze actions taken by Coast Guard to improve its targeting and inspection of hazardous material containers in response to recommendations issued in our 1998 audit of the CIP," continues the memo.

The survey will be conducted at Coast Guard Headquarters, district offices, activities, marine safety offices, and freight container terminals at selected seaports. "We also plan to meet with representatives from the U.S. Customs Service, marine industry associations, shipping companies, freight forwarders, and local port authorities to discuss container safety and security issues that have arisen since September 11th," concludes the memo.