Forwarders say new US cargo security programme is a quick fix

By Damian Brett

US forwarders have warned that plans for a new US air cargo security programme could be a quick fix benefiting only a select few.

Last Wednesday, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) met with air cargo stakeholders to outline proposals for a new security regime in line with incoming International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requirements.

These requirements mean that from June 30 member states will be required to screen cargo before it is loaded on freighter aircraft, as they are currently required to do with belly freight.

The TSA is proposing a new voluntary programme that allows e-commerce fulfillment centers, manufacturers, shippers, suppliers, warehouses and third-party logistics providers who ship international air cargo, to voluntarily participate in an alternative to having their air cargo screened by a TSA-regulated air carrier.

The programme would allow these organisations to develop secure packing facilities that would then be audited by the TSA.

The TSA hopes the programme will reduce the burden on US and foreign all-cargo aircraft operators in complying with the international standards.

However, some have suggested that it would be easier to extend the existing Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP).

Airforwarders Association executive director Brandon Fried said: “The Airforwarders Association believes that the TSA and air cargo stakeholders share a common goal: the safety and security of our aviation industry and those we serve.

“However, as written, the Order seems to be a quick fix that provides no apparent security value and benefits only a select few.

“The Order will require a significant amount of work, with little to no benefit to Indirect Air Carriers or our shared security goals.

“The TSA should take the time to work with the air cargo community to develop a more sensible programme that focuses on a risk-based solution that emphasises the CCSP, a successful initiative allowing shippers to screen cargo in their facilities, as a viable option, instead of an idea that appears far less secure than the Account Consignor regime this concept is meant to replace.”

Many suggest the new programme has been designed with larger shippers, such as Amazon, in mind.

All-cargo airlines have been more supportive of a new scheme as they fear they could be left trying to screen cargo themselves, which will be costly to implement.

In its initial comments submitted last year, Atlas Air said that it strongly supports the development of a new US “Known Consignor” programme that will permit certain entities that can demonstrate security capabilities consistent with ICAO security standards to continue to move an identified subset of their cargo without the need to have it physical screened. 

It argued that for all-cargo air carriers, the costs of implementing a 100% screening regime would be substantial and the use of screening machines and third-party canines would need to be expanded significantly.

In its feedback on proposals, UPS Airlines said that it strongly supports the development of a new standard security programme that will permit certain entities that can demonstrate security capabilities consistent with ICAO security standards to continue to move commerce without the need for air carriers to screen cargo prior to transport from the US.

“This new programme should be flexible and recognise entities to qualify under security standards already in place if they are robust enough to meet TSA standards.”

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