ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Container Security Initiative Bolstered by NIST Grant Supporting Research and Development of X-Ray Security Systems

New York, Sep 24, 2003

An innovative research organization has joined with a supplier of X-ray technology to develop specialized security systems under a grant from the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST). The four-year project plans to develop cost-effective methods for making large-area digital X-ray inspection technology for highly-accurate screening of cargo and sealed container freight. The collaborative effort underscores a mutual public/private sector focus on air- and seaport security to thwart terrorist activities affecting international trade.

Globally, over 48 million full cargo containers move between major seaports each year, according to the Department of Homeland Security, and more than 6 million containers arrive in the United States by ship. From these millions of cargo containers that enter U.S. ports, roughly four percent pass under the direct inspection of U.S. customs.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, U.S. Customs developed the Container Security Initiative (CSI) (announced in March 2003), and now, within the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is continuing to implement CSI at major ports around the world. DHS recognizes containerized shipping as a critical component of global trade, and the CSI program aims to protect containerized shipping from exploitation by terrorists.

CSI consists of four core elements: 1) using intelligence and automated information to identify and target high-risk containers; (2) pre-screening those containers identified as high-risk, at the port of departure, before they arrive at U.S. ports; (3) using detection technology to quickly pre-screen high-risk containers; and (4) using smarter, tamper proof containers.

ASTM International, an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, has developed a set of standards that serve to support the fourth element of CSI: addressing container security before cargo even reaches the point of inspection. Security seals are locking devices that come in various forms, from padlocks to bolts to wire seals, and show evidence of tampering or entry upon inspection. Four ASTM standards dealing with security seals are referenced by U.S. Customs in a federal specification for antipilferage seals: F 832, Classification for Security Seals, F 1157, Practice for Classifying the Relative Performance of the Physical Properties of Security Seals, F 1158, Guide for Inspection and Evaluation of Tampering of Security Seals, and F 946, Guide for Establishing Security Seal Control and Accountability Procedures.

As part of NIST’s Advanced Technology Program, federal funding of the X-ray research program will support the third core element of CSI. The Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) – a subsidiary of ANSI member Xerox Corporation – and Varian Medical Systems Inc. will use a $5.87 million NIST grant to develop ultra-sensitive X-ray inspection technology for cargo screening at airports and seaports.

Scientists at the two institutions, which have successfully collaborated in the past to develop flat-panel X-ray detectors for medical applications, will now work to develop large-area, high-resolution digital X-ray sensor arrays for cone-beam computerized tomography (CT). These new large-area detectors, when paired with high-energy X-ray sources, will enable technicians to examine the contents of a cargo container more quickly and thoroughly.

Other voluntary consensus standards, such as ASTM F792-01e2, Standard Practice for Evaluating the Imaging Performance of Security X-Ray Systems, may have new roles to play in these unfolding efforts that support homeland security.


NIST’s Advanced Technology Program,

U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection,

See related story: TSA Focuses Attention on Security Efforts for Land and Sea; Standards contribute to security in transportation processes and information exchange

 Homeland Defense and Security Standardization Collaborative