WASHINGTON — Singapore will be the first Asian port to allow U.S.-bound cargo to be prescreened, as part of the U.S. push to protect shipments from being used to smuggle terrorist weapons, the U.S. Customs Service said Tuesday.

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Canada is the only other country to sign up, thus far, for the ambitious Container Security Initiative, launched in January in response to the events of Sept. 11 and continued terrorist threats.

Singapore is the second-busiest seaport in the world next to Hong Kong. However, Singapore is the busiest in terms of consolidating and redirecting shipments from other countries before being shipped to their final destination. Last year, about 80 percent of the containers arriving in Singapore were redirected to other countries, including 330,000 U.S.-bound containers.

Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner wants the prescreening program, which involves deploying U.S. Customs officers to foreign countries, to first focus on “mega ports” such as Singapore. There are 20 such high-volume ports in the world, handling 68 percent of the 5.7 million sea containers entering the U.S. each year, according to Customs.

A date for Singapore’s participation in CSI hasn’t been set. The prescreening of Canadian goods began in March.

The prescreening program is in addition to a pending plan for U.S. importers, including those shipping textile and apparel, to have their cargo precertified as being free from terrorist weaponry. Importers are being asked to submit a blueprint with Customs of how cargo is being kept secure from the factory to the loading dock.”

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