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Port of San Francisco First West Coast Seaport to Install Radiation Portal Monitors

The Port of San Francisco became the first seaport on the U.S. West Coast to install Radiation Portal Monitors (RPM) to screen all import cargo. The U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), part of the Department of Homeland Security, selected San Francisco’s Pier 80 as the first terminal on the U.S. West Coast to install the portal. Eventually all U.S. ports will have the same system in an effort to screen 100 percent of all imported goods.

Port of San Francisco docks the first to be protected against radiation threat.

“The Port has worked diligently with the Department of Homeland Security to improve the security of our Port,” said Monique Moyer, Executive Director of the Port of San Francisco. “As an urban port with a wide array of industries and activities makes this effort an incredible challenge, but knowing that these devices are now in place should make Bay Area residents feel more secure.”

A radiation portal monitor is a detection device that provides Customs and Border Protection with a passive, non-intrusive means to screen containerized and break bulk cargo, trucks and other conveyances for the presence of nuclear and radiological materials. These systems are capable of detecting various types of radiation emanating from nuclear devices including dirty bombs. The Port of San Francisco completed the construction of the RPM on behalf of U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection who fully funded the project.

The monitors are manned by specially trained Customs officers and are located near the exit gate at Pier 80. Trucks drive through the portal as they exit the terminal, a process that takes only a few seconds. If the signal light turns green the truck proceeds out of the terminal. If the signal remains red, a Customs Officer directs the truck to a secondary RPM that is located out of the flow of traffic and further tests are done. An alert by itself does not mean that a nuclear weapon or harmful radiation has been detected. There are many legitimate sources of radiation, including naturally occurring radiation and various medical and industrial isotopes that pose little threat to the public. CBP personnel will follow strict protocols to determine whether the source of radiation is a potential terrorist threat and take the appropriate responsive actions.

Pier 80, managed by Marine Terminals Corporation, is the Northern California port of call for the AMPAC Group (CCNI, Maruba, and Hamburg Sud), that serves Latin America, and the joint venture between Polynesia Lines and Hamburg Sud, which serves Tahiti and Polynesia. Pier 80 also has several breakbulk vessels calling including those services offered by SK Shipping, Pan Ocean Bulk, Hyundai, Star Shipping, Norsk Pacific, Gearbulk, and Saga Forest Carriers.