Below is the full text of the speech delivered by the Commissioner of Customs and Excise, Mr Raymond Wong Hung-chiu, at the signing ceremony of Declaration of Principles for the Container Security Initiative today (September 23):
Mr Bonner, Mr Keith, Mr Tang, Ladies and Gentlemen,
This morning, I am very pleased to be able to announce that we have reached agreement with the US Customs on a Declaration of Principles relating to bilateral Customs cooperation on the CSI. The signing of the Declaration of Principles signifies further enhancement of cooperation between Hong Kong Customs and US Customs and demonstrates the Hong Kong SAR's commitment to safeguarding the global maritime trade system against terrorism.
Hong Kong has the world's busiest container port. Last year, we handled 17.8 million containers (TEUs) with 2.2 million containers (TEUs) exported to the US. Our economy depends much on the smooth and efficient flow of cargo through our port.
The tragic event of September 11 has triggered considerable concern about possible severe disruption to the global maritime trade in the event of a disastrous terrorist attack involving seaborne containers. As a leading logistics hub, Hong Kong fully recognises the importance of enhancing the security of the world's maritime trading system through strengthened Customs cooperation at seaports. A more secure maritime trade environment would no doubt help ensure the smooth flow of seaborne cargo.
The CSI is an initiative to enhance the security of the world's maritime trading system through strengthened Customs cooperation at seaports. Under the DoP, the Hong Kong and US Customs will exchange information and work together closely to facilitate the identification and screening of high-risk containers. It is expected that participation in the CSI would help ensure the smooth flow of US bound cargo and further enhance the competitiveness of our port.
We have taken into account a host of factors such as ocean container security, impact on trade as well as port efficiency and competitiveness in taking this step towards implementing a CSI pilot scheme in Hong Kong. In the past two months, the Government had held several consultative meetings with various stakeholders, including shipping companies, forwarding agents, terminal and mid-stream operators. They were in general supportive of the goals of CSI. In particular, at the meeting on August 28, the LOGSCOUNCIL, the Government's major advisory body on logistics development, also pledged support for the Initiative.
The signing of the DoP today marks the beginning of cooperation between Hong Kong and US Customs towards the implementation of the CSI in Hong Kong. We look forward to working closely with our US colleagues on the details of cooperation. Further consultation with the stakeholders will continue as we move along. It is our aim to work out a set of practical arrangements which will enhance the security of sea-going cargo passing through our port while accommodating the need for maintaining our port efficiency.
End/Monday, September 23, 2002