US forwarders call for investments not inspections to tackle fentanyl crisis

Source: Airforwarders Association

The US government should invest in technology to tackle the fentanyl crisis rather than require 100% physical inspection of pharma packages, according to US forwarders.

Speaking at the CNS Partnership Conference, US Airforwraders Association executive director Brandon Fried warned that 100% inspection of pharma packages would cause air cargo to grind to a halt.

Instead, he would like to see the government invest in data analysis and detection technologies to target suspicious shipments without impeding the flow of commerce.

“The air cargo industry is keenly aware of the devastating impact of the fentanyl crisis on the US and many countries worldwide,” he said.

“We understand the urgency to prevent the flow of illicit substances across borders and we are committed to working alongside government authorities to identify red flags and support efforts to stop these dangerous materials.

“However, we must resist calls for 100% physical inspection of packages, an approach which would grind air cargo operations to a halt, disrupting legitimate trade and harming the global economy.

“Instead, we urge governments to leverage advanced data analysis and cutting-edge detection technologies to target suspicious shipments without impeding the flow of commerce.

“By working together, we can hold bad actors accountable while ensuring the smooth and efficient movement of legitimate goods.”

The last few years have seen the US government ramp up its efforts to disrupt the fentanyl supply chain as the amount of the drug being imported sky rockets.

US Customs and Border Protection fentanyl seizures in 2023 increased by more than 800% since fiscal year 2019

Most recently, low-value Entry Type 86 shipment data sets have been required to be filed prior or on arrival of the imported cargo.

Previously, filing could take place up to 15 days after the arrival of the shipment.

Also, title 19 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) requires a “precise or specific description of the merchandise” being imported.

The CBP said that it had implemented the new requirement to help manage challenges associated with the rapidly rising number of small packages being imported into the US.

“Such challenges include, but are not limited to, CBP’s efforts to prevent the importation of illicit substances like fentanyl and other narcotics, counterfeits and other intellectual property rights violations, and goods made with forced labour,” CBP said.

Fried said that as well as the lack of investment in new technology, there was also a lack of investment in infrastructure, which put air cargo at risk.

“The Key Bridge incident is just one symptom of a larger issue: a lack of investment in air cargo infrastructure and operations particularly evident at cargo areas of our major airports, where truck waiting times routinely reach two to three hours, even with decreased shipment volumes compared to the pandemic peak.

“This inefficiency disrupts supply chains and hinders economic growth.

“The consequences of inaction on both infrastructure investment and the fentanyl crisis are severe.”

“Without significant investment and operational improvements, we face severe challenges with ongoing congestion at airports, and without a collaborative approach to stopping illicit materials, countless lives remain at risk.”

New US rules implemented to tackle rise in low-value import shipments

US forwarders brace for kickback on larger shipment screening rules

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Damian Brett

Damian Brett
I have been writing about the freight and logistics industry since 2007 when I joined International Freighting Weekly to cover the shipping sector.After a stint in PR, I have gone on to work for Containerisation International and Lloyds List - where I was editor of container shipping - before joining Air Cargo News in 2015.Contact me on [email protected]