By ALEX VEIGA The Associated Press Saturday, June 4,
2005; 12:11 AM
LOS ANGELES -- The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach
will receive radiation detectors to scan every incoming
cargo container for nuclear weapons or dirty bombs,
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said
The 20-foot-high devices, already in use in at seaports
in Jersey City, N. J., and elsewhere, should be at the
Southern California ports by the end of the year,
Chertoff said. They are part of the U. S. government's
strategy to prevent a possible attack by terrorists using
nuclear or radiological weapons at the nation's busiest
"A key element of that strategy is detection," Chertoff
said after touring the waterways surrounding the ports
aboard a Coast Guard ship. "If we know this radiological
material is coming in ... we can take the appropriate
steps to intercept a threat."
About 4.3 million containers are shipped to the dual
ports each year. The Southern California harbor will
become the second major U. S. harbor to have all incoming
cargo screened, Chertoff said.
In April, officials announced Oakland was the first major
harbor to install enough radiation machines to check all
incoming cargo. It has 25.
Trucks carrying containers unloaded from ships will pass
through the detectors. If the machines find signs of
radiation, containers will get another scan and possibly
inspection by hand-held devices.
At a cost of about $250,000 each, the machines were
funded by federal dollars and take about five seconds to
screen each container, officials said.
Union officials representing port workers said some cargo
containers linger on the docks for hours or days _ and
might not be checked right away.
"We think it's hypocritical that they don't screen it
immediately after it's unloaded, said Miguel Lopez, port
representative of the International Brotherhood of
Teamsters, whose union has about 500 truckers at the
ports. "It puts everybody in jeopardy, not just the
Chertoff said the process of checking containers could be
optimized to reduce delays in scanning, citing officials
in Baltimore who found ways to speed up the process.
He also said scanning would not slow the flow of cargo at
the ports, which last year experienced delays handling a
large volume of cargo from the Far East.
"Taking an extra couple minutes to promote homeland
security is something the trucking industry would
endorse," said Patty Senecal, vice president of Transport
Express Inc., a harbor trucking and warehouse company.
"It's a different story if trucks are delayed for hours
and hours ... but we don't expect that."