Dubai port becomes the 33rd harbour in the world to join the Container Security Initiative (CSI), which was launched in January 2002 in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US.

"This agreement is a milestone because Dubai Ports will be the first port in the Middle East to implement the CSI," Robert Bonner, commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), said after signing the accord with Dubai Ports and Customs chairman, Sultan Ahmad bin Sulayman.

CBP, an agency of the US Department of Homeland Security, will now deploy a small team of officers to the port, which is ranked the sixth largest in the world.

"Their mission will be to target sea containers destined for the United States", an official US statement said.

"Dubai Customs officials, working with CBP officers, will be responsible for screening any containers identified as a potential terrorist risk," the statement said.

'Fairly logical'

Containers shipped from Dubai to the United States number
between 1000 and 2000 a year.

Bin Sulayman said: "This is something we've been working on with our colleagues from the United States for a long time. It will facilitate trade between the two countries. We do not envisage that this will cause any delay in our operations."

The deal is expected to increase
trade between the US and Dubai

Bonner said that following the signing of the agreement, "over 70% of the cargo that is shipped from overseas to the US" is now secure.

"We're discussing with a number of countries to implement CSI, including in the Middle East," he said, but refused to name those countries.

Bonner said his department aimed at eventually checking more than 90% of all containers coming into the United States.

This could be done into the next year, he said.