India, Bangladesh step up port security

India, Bangladesh step up port security

NEW DELHI -Bangladesh and India are preparing to step up security measures at seaports, including scanning of containers shipped to and from their countries.

Bangladesh plans to install six X-ray scanning machines at the country's two seaports of Chittagong and Mongla, and inland container terminals.

In the first phase of the installation, three machines will be installed by December at Chittagong and one at the Kamalapur inland container terminal in Dhaka. In the second phase, Chittagong will get two more scanning machines, and Mongla will get one. Chittagong is Bangladesh's main seaport, handling 80 percent of the country's trade.

The security moves result from a recent inter-ministerial meeting that decided to upgrade security measures at ports to meet international pressure, mainly from the U.S.

Finance Minister M. Saifur Rahman said the main purpose of the scanning would be to check illegal shipments of arms and narcotics through regular trade channels. The government has created a four-member committee, including representatives from the ports and the customs service, to oversee the installation of scanning machines.

Only 10 percent of containers are currently checked manually. Once the scanning machines are installed, all containers will be checked. The government also hopes the measures reduce fraud by exporters and importers and increase its revenue from customs duties.

Meanwhile, the Indian Register of Shipping is studying security measures at all ports. A survey of the western port of Jawaharlal Nehru, the country's top container port, has been completed.

Chairman Ravi Budhiraja said this week that security at Nehru would be tightened in line with U.S. procedures to prevent terrorist attacks and check shipments of illegal cargo. The state-run container terminal and the privately run Nhava Sheva International Container Terminal will install security systems, including X-ray machines, to scan container cargo at random.

The government also is considering setting up a separate force for security at all the 13 major ports.