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De-bugging: It’s not the sexiest part of CBP’s job, but it saves country millions each year

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has a wide-ranging role at our port. In addition to being tasked with securing the country from terrorists and their weapons, the agency must also facilitate legitimate trade and travel.

That means the monitoring of the millions of sea cargo containers that pass through our nation’s seaports every year. Each day, CBP officers screen thousands of shipping containers at the Port of Savannah, the nation’s fourth-busiest container port.

While illegal weapons and counterfeit goods tend to grab the spotlight, there are other, smaller dangers that threaten the livelihood of the nation’s farmers and businesses.

The discovery at our port last month of a new and dangerous pest – the Yellow Spotted Stink Bug – is just the latest in a parade of dangerous bugs that, if allowed to get a foothold on our soil, could cause major damage.

In December, CBP agricultural specialists intercepted destructive longhorn beetle larvae in a container of goods arriving in our port from Turkey. It was the sixth time in six weeks the wood-boring pest had been found in cargo at the port.

“Our best defense against destructive pests is to prevent their entry into the United States,” said Lisa Brown, CBP port director for Port of Savannah. “The cost to American taxpayers to eradicate a pest, plant or disease once it becomes established in the U.S. can reach into the tens of millions of dollars or more.

“Working with our partners in USDA and Agriculture groups within the State is critical to prevent potentially harmful plant pests and foreign animal diseases from entering the U.S.”

CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agriculture inspections. The recent catch at GPA is one of more than 200 incidents of dangerous pests/invasive plant material and other agricultural issues found at the port in the last few months alone.

On a typical day in fiscal 2016, CBP agriculture specialists discovered 404 pests at U.S. ports of entry and 4638 materials for quarantine.

Shipping execs sentenced to die

When it comes to dealing with those responsible for damage to its scandal-riddled shipping industry, Vietnam doesn’t play around.

Late last month, the People’s Court in Hanoi found two former executives of Vinashinlines guilty of embezzling more than $11.3 million (U.S.) through shipping deals made between 2006 and 2008.

According to the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper, Tran Van Liem, former director general of Vinashinlines, and Giang Kim Dat, the company’s former sales manager, were sentenced to death Wednesday following a four-day trial.

The firm’s former accountant was given life imprisonment for assisting with the embezzlement.

“All the defendants are convicted of serious crimes, causing damage to the state … so they should face a strict punishment,” Tuoi Tre reported the verdict stated.

Vinashinlines is a subsidiary of the carrier Vinashin, which nearly folded in 2010 under billions of dollars of debt. Nine former executives linked to the firm were handed lengthy jail terms in 2012.

The company’s near-bankruptcy, as well as scandals at other firms, sparked public anger over official corruption and raised investor fears of wider problems in the state-run sector.

Senior business reporter Mary Carr Mayle covers the ports for the Savannah Morning News and savannahnow. She can be reached at 912-652-0324 or at mary.mayle@savannahnow.com.

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Following are the ships expected to call on Georgia Ports Authority’s Garden City and Ocean terminals this week.Schedules are supplied by GPA and are subject to change.

TERMINAL VESSEL ETA

GCT HYUNDAI NEPTUNE Today

GCT COLOMBO EXPRESS Today

GCT MAERSK WOLFSBURG Today

GCT MARGARETE SCHULTE Today

GCT APL DUBLIN Today

GCT OAKLAND EXPRESS Today

GCT MSC KLEVEN Today

OT BBC CITRINE Today

GCT HARRIER HUNTER Saturday

GCT HARMONY N Saturday

GCT MSC PAMELA Saturday

GCT MSC KARLSKRONA Saturday

GCT MSC LUISA Sunday

GCT MAERSK SINGAPORE Sunday

OT STAR KINN Sunday

GCT MATAQUITO Monday

GCT MAINE TRADER Monday

GCT MOL MATRIX Monday

GCT NORTHERN MAGNUM Monday

GCT COSCO BEIJING Monday

OT FIDELIO Monday

OT PATRIOT Monday

GCT MSC KATYA R. Tuesday

GCT WASHINGTON EXPRESS Tuesday

GCT SPIRIT OF LISBON Tuesday

GCT SEALAND WASHINGTON Tuesday

GCT CMA CGM SAMBHAR Wednesday

GCT AGIOS MINAS Wednesday

GCT ZIM QINGDAO Wednesday

GCT JAN Wednesday

GCT BUXCLIFF Wednesday

GCT MAERSK KINLOSS Wednesday

GCT NYK DELPHINUS Wednesday

GCT UASC ZAMZAM Thursday

GCT EVER LUCID Thursday

GCT MAERSK KAWASAKI Thursday

GCT MOL BELLWETHER Thursday

GCT MAERSK KOTKA Thursday

GCT ZIM SHANGHAI Thursday

GCT HOUSTON EXPRESS Thursday

GCT ARICA Thursday

GCT MSC MARIA ELENA Thursday

OT ASIATIC Thursday

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In Case You Missed It