Customs and Border Protection Announces Plan to Enhance Rail Cargo Inspections

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) unveiled a $46 million dollar initiative earlier this month to enhance the security and efficiency of rail cargo inspections at locations throughout the United States.

Under the initiative, CBP will replace aging rail scanning systems at twelve rail ports of entry on the U.S. southern and northern land borders with high energy rail scanners. The new scanners use linear accelerators to generate X-rays from electricity rather than radioactive isotopes, producing high-quality images that support faster and more secure cargo inspections.

“Non-intrusive inspection technology is a force multiplier that allows CBP officers to safely and more efficiently process U.S.-bound cargo,” said William A. Ferrara, Executive Assistant Commissioner of the CBP Office of Field Operations. “The high-quality images produced by the new rail cargo scanners will enhance CBP’s efforts to interdict stowaways, deadly narcotics, and other contraband while facilitating the flow of lawful trade.”

CBP will install the new scanning equipment at the following locations, which process approximately 60 percent of the rail cargo imported into the United States:

Blaine, Washington
Brownsville, Texas
Buffalo, New York
Calexico, California
Eagle Pass, Texas
Eastport, Idaho
El Paso, Texas (BNSF Railway)
El Paso, Texas (Union Pacific Railroad)
International Falls/Ranier, Minnesota
Nogales, Arizona
Portal, North Dakota
Rouses Point, New York

The installation and testing of the new scanners are expected to begin in fall 2021 and will increase the efficiency of commercial rail inspections.

CBP employs strict safety measures to protect the health and safety of local communities and the agency workforce at all times. The new scanners will generate X-rays only when trains are present. CBP will install shield walls, fencing, and signage at project sites in compliance with the safety and performance requirements specific to each location.

Non-intrusive inspection technology is an essential component of CBP’s border security strategy. The images produced by non-intrusive inspection technology enable CBP personnel to discern anomalies in the density of objects within the scanned container or vehicle. In Fiscal Year 2020, CBP’s 6.4 million non-intrusive inspections at U.S. ports of entry interdicted 470,000 pounds of illicit narcotics and $11.54 million in undeclared currency.

In addition to its security benefits, non-intrusive inspection technology creates efficiencies for CBP and the broader trade community. Non-intrusive inspection technology generates up to $17.5 billion in economic benefits for the trade community and up to $1 billion in government cost savings every year.

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