“Anti-Terrorism Contraband” Cargo Inspections Conducted in Alameda

Feb 1, 2014

Posted in Environment

By Ashley Chambers

The inspection of potentially hazardous cargos that come through the Port of Oakland have been conducted for months in the City of Alameda, even though the City of Oakland has refused to allow such inspections at the old Horizon Beverage building in West Oakland.

Concerns have been raised by community members that Bobac CFS Corporation is operating a Customs Examination Station (CES) in Alameda by the Naval Base. The examination station is an Anti-Terrorism Contraband Enforcement Team (A-TCET) site that inspects for illegal cargo, smuggling, weapons of mass destruction, and other contraband, in addition to being a Trade (site), which conducts inspections for trade violations.

Cargo inspection, Port of Oakland

Bobac has operated as a customs exam station for over four years, but concerns have increased since the company that had been conducting A-TCET inspections – PCC Logistics – lost its contract with U.S. Customs last year when it had to move due to one of the snafus surrounding the beginning of Oakland’s Army Base Development project.

In addition, Oakland residents are concerned that trucks are transporting potentially hazardous cargos on Oakland streets to the Bobac facility in Alameda.

Seeking to relieve some of the anxiety caused by the inspections, Customs says it takes steps to make sure that no known hazardous materials are shipped through the community.

U.S. Customs inspectors “examine containers for dangerous materials and anomalies prior to leaving the port” and do not “permit movement of any container suspected of containing harmful materials,” said Frank Falcon, Public Affairs Liaison with CBP.

In order to determine whether or not containers coming in to the port hold dangerous material, CBP uses equipment to “non-intrusively” examine cargo before it’s transported to an inspection site in the community.

U.S. Customs has assured Alameda city staff that there would be no hazardous material at the Bobac facility, according to Assistant City Manager Alex Nguyen.

While no hazardous materials may be knowingly transported through Oakland to Alameda, the site in Alameda does conduct A-TCET “anti-terrorism contraband” inspections.

Therefore, questions remain whether potentially hazardous cargo – explosives or radioactive materials – may be unknowingly transported into Alameda, and what are possible dangers to local communities.

These concerns were raised by Oakland residents and city officials when the City of Oakland rejected entrepreneur Tom Henderson’s attempt to conduct A-TCET inspections in West Oakland.

Bobac owner Bob Haydari, who has been working with unloading and reloading cargo for 25 years, says he has not received any dangerous material at his facility while working with U.S. Customs.

In a recent article in the Alameda Sun newspaper, Haydari said, “There is nothing to worry about. I’m 60 years old, I work with my wife, and two kids, I would not do this if I thought this job was dangerous.”

However, some Alameda residents are still unsure the inspections provide sufficient safety guarantees.

“I just want the whole (City) Council to look into it,” said Alameda resident Irma Garcia-Sinclair a November interview with The Alamedan.