Massachusetts Rep. Markey preps to roll out legislation for all-cargo plane screening

By Jeff Berman · November 2, 2010

Following the recent attempt by terrorists to send explosives to the United States on cargo and passenger planes, Massachusetts Representative Edward J. Markey (D) said he plans to introduce legislation requiring 100 percent screening of all cargo on cargo planes.

Markey has been active on the air cargo security front over the years and played an integral role in H.R. 1, Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007, which required the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish a system to enable airline security to establish a system to screen 100 percent of cargo transported on passenger aircraft commensurate with the level of security used for checked 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, 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.
“In 2007, my amendment on air cargo screening was enacted into law, closing a cargo security gap on passenger planes,” Markey said in a statement. “At the time, strong opposition from the shipping industry, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and other business interests prevented the inclusion of a screening mandate for all-cargo planes. Following this recent foiled cargo bombing plot from Yemen, now is the time to finish the job.”
Markey added that while 100 percent of air cargo being transported on domestic passenger planes is now being screened, coupled with a reported more than 80 percent of incoming cargo on international passenger planes, all freight on all-cargo carrier planes is not being screened.
Last week’s events, coupled with Markey’s pending legislation create, in some respects, urgency for heightened security on all-cargo carrier planes.

An example of this is the fact that with the 100 percent cargo screening rule required for cargo flying on passenger airlines, there are some freight forwarders who may elect to not even bothering and, instead, move air freight on cargo-only airlines, said Albert Saphir, principal of ABS Consulting in Weston, Fla., in a recent interview.

“Some forwarders won’t put anything on passenger aircraft, because in the lanes passenger airlines promote their business or services, 90 percent of those lanes are served by cargo-only carriers,” explained Saphir. “And some forwarders don’t want to have to worry about 100 percent scanning and if they have a shipment that needs to go a passenger-only aircraft destination, they may give it to a friendly competitor if they are not active in that particular lane.”

But that premise is likely to change, considering that Transportation Security Administration Acting Administration told members of Congress in March that it could be a “couple of more years” before all inbound cargo is screened for bombs,” according to a USA Today report.

What’s more, the report also cited how the U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a June report that TSA has yet to determine when or how all inbound cargo will be screened.


About the Author

Jeff Berman
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. Contact Jeff Berman

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