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Massachusetts Rep. Markey introduces new legislation for all-cargo plane screening

DHS, AfA say 100 percent screening is not the way to go, favor a multilayered approach
By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
November 23, 2010

As expected, Massachusetts Representative Edward D. Markey (D) recently introduced legislation requiring 100 percent screening of all cargo on cargo planes.

This legislation follows the October attempts by terrorists to send explosives originating from Yemen to the United States on cargo and passenger planes.

In his bill, entitled “the Air Cargo Security Act,” Markey proposes:
-developing a system to screen 100 percent of cargo transported on all-cargo aircraft within three years, with half of the cargo screened within 18 months;
-establishing a system for the regular inspection of shipping facilities for shipments of air cargo transported on all-cargo planes for purposes of ensuring that appropriate security controls, systems, and protocols are well-observed; and
-entering into agreements with government authorities of foreign countries to ensure that inspections are conducted on a regular basis at shipping facilities for cargo transported in air transportation to the United States.

Identical legislation was dropped in the Senate side by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA).

Air cargo security is far from new for the Massachusetts Representative. He played a large role in drafting H.R. 1, Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007, which required the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish a system to screen 100 percent of cargo transported on passenger aircraft commensurate with the level of security used for unchecked baggage.

This measure, which went live on August 1, requires all air cargo to be screened at the piece level prior to transport on a passenger aircraft for flights originating in the United States, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration. Included in this endeavor is TSA’s Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP), which enables Indirect Air Carriers (IAC’s), shippers, and Independent Cargo Screening Facilities (ICSF’s) to screen cargo for flights originating in the U.S. According to TSA, most shippers involved in CCSP have readily incorporated physical search into their packing/shipping operation at minimal cost without needing to invest in screening equipment.

Since the Yemem terrorists attempt to send explosives into the U.S., the White House and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have issued a number of steps to augment security and tighten existing measures pertaining to U.S.-bound cargo.

DHS Security Janet Napolitano said in a statement that DHS has ordered a ground halt on all cargo shipments coming from Yemen, and she also said that TSA has directed air cargo carriers to begin implementing additional precautionary security measures for international flights inbound to the United States.

These measures include banning all air cargo from Yemen, as well as Somalia, along with no high-risk cargo to be allowed in passenger aircraft. They also include prohibiting toner and ink cartridges weighing more than 16 ounces on passenger aircraft in both carry-on bags and checked bags on U.S.-bound domestic and international flights. Napolitano said that this ban will also apply to certain inbound international air cargo shipments.

And in a recent Bloomberg report Napolitano said the screening mandate “is an easy thing to say, but it’s probably not the best way to go. Cargo is infinitely more complicated and comes in infinitely more shapes and sizes than passengers.” What’s more, she added that a law akin to H.R.1, which requires cargo screening on passenger flights, would “require some hundreds of treaties to be negotiated so that foreign governments would allow the screening.”

Washington, D.C-based Airfowarders Association Executive Director Brandon Fried shared a similar opinion when discussing air cargo security at the recently-concluded TransComp expo in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida last week.

“We are not in favor of 100 percent screening; we believe in more of a supply chain approach to perform screening like CCSP,” said Fried. “More needs to be done to secure cargo on all-cargo aircraft. While screening plays a role, it is not the solution we are looking for to be 100 percent secure. We have to use a very empathically risk-based approach, a multilayered risk-based approach that incorporates lots of different ways to screen cargo and is based on targeted, risk-based assessment. Different methods are needed like explosive trace detection, x-rays, and canine detection.”

Fried added that screening a cargo is much different than screening bags on an airplane. The main reason, he said, is that passenger cargo goes through the same type of screening device. But on the cargo side, he said that TSA has neither vetted nor certified a piece of technology that can screen a pallet that contains multiple commodities, which is H.R. 1 requires screening on a piece level.

Another challenge for TSA cited by Fried is that other nations are not providing TSA with the visibility for their screening protocols, which prevents TSA from knowing if other nations’ screening protocols are commensurate with TSA’s own standards.

“This is a big issue and needs to be elevated beyond the level of the Department of Homeland Security,” said Fried. “We would like to see other agencies like the Department of State and Department of Commerce involved, too, and have Secretary of State Clinton go to her counterparts in other countries to make sure TSA gets the visibility it needs.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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