US 'ignored' small forwarders on expanded security rules

05 / 06 / 2014

SMALL and medium-sized airfreight forwarders have been ignored by the US regulators planning to adopt an expanded air cargo data and security screening regulation.

A group of airfreight forwarders has urged the federal US government to resolve a number of key issues before expanding the Air Cargo Advanced Screening (ACAS) programme.

The programme analyses advance data on inbound air shipments to the USA to assess risk. It is currently in its pilot phase, but US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has signaled that it intends to expand it to apply to all inbound air cargo.

The Airforwarders Association (AfA), the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA), The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) and the Express Delivery and Logistics Association (XLA) have jointly sent letters to CBP and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) noting their support of the concept of the ACAS programme’s risk-based analysis at the shipment level, but adding: “We are concerned about certain issues which we feel have not yet been fully resolved within the ACAS pilot.”

In addition to detailing worries over potential negative impacts on small- and medium-sized air forwarding businesses, the letters include requests to meet with both agencies and representatives from air carriers to discuss the concerns and try to resolve them.  

The associations are concerned that the ACAS pilot programme has involved only a handful of forwarders, mostly larger organisations that have integrated supply chains and overseas infrastructure.

The pilot has not included smaller forwarding companies “that rely on an extensive network of independent agents at overseas airports” and for whom “the size and scope of their technology infrastructure varies widely,” the letters state.

The groups are calling for more work to be done to determine how the ACAS program will be applied to small- and medium-sized forwarders before they are brought under its requirements.

Any ACAS rule should maintain a level playing field for all filers, they urge.

“No requirement should create an unfair competitive business advantage for one filer over another,” the letters add.

Issues of concern include that ACAS may not take into account variances among US trading partners in the applicability and procedures of their own [national] screening programmes, most notably that not all countries of origination allow forwarders to screen cargo.

It is important for ACAS “to clarify what the process and verification procedures will be when an ACAS dual-filing is made at a foreign location, first by the forwarder and then by the carrier,” it goes on.