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TSA and European Union herald air cargo security partnership

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
June 01, 2012

The complicated world of global air cargo security received good news today with the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the European Union (EU) announcing an air cargo security partnership.

TSA officials said that this agreement will result in better communication sharing, stronger security, and more efficient air cargo transportation between the U.S. and the EU, which represents more then 1 million tons per year going to and from each continent and 20 percent of all EU outbound air cargo.

The agency added that effective today TSA and the EU will “mutually recognize their respective air cargo security regimes,” adding that this is the first time that TSA has recognized a union of nation states, with private industry now able to move cargo through the 27 EU member states, the U.S. and Switzerland under a single set of security rules.

“This agreement with the EU and Switzerland will ease the burden on industry and allow for the free movement of goods and commerce between our nations,” said TSA Administrator John S. Pistole in a statement. “It will also strengthen security by ensuring that we share information and work together towards our common interests.”

TSA also explained that through its close collaboration with the EU in recent months provided the groundwork for the U.S. and EU to be compared in detail and confirmed as ensuring an equivalent high level of security. This is due in large part to its National Cargo Security Program (NCSP) recognition process in which it analyzes air cargo programs of other nations and gauge if they match up with U.S. requirements.

The agency also said that harmonized air cargo screening allows industry to follow a single program when transporting cargo between countries.

This agreement follows a separate announcement made yesterday between the United States and Canada in which DHS said their respective governments have agreed to the mutual recognition and cooperation regarding air cargo security in both countries, with cargo shipped on passenger aircraft being screened at the point of origin and will not need to be rescreened at the border or prior to upload in the other country.

And last month TSA set a December 3, 2012 deadline, which requires passenger air carriers to conduct 100 percent cargo screening on international inbound flights.

The original deadline for 100 percent cargo screening on international U.S.-bound flights was December 31, 2011, but TSA pushed it back last October. TSA spokesman Jim Fotenos told LM the new December 3, 2012 deadline is firm and will allow the air cargo industry to screen U.S.-bound cargo by that date.

TSA officials said this week that TSA, the screening requirement “builds additional risk-based, intelligence-driven procedures into the prescreening process to determine screening protocols on a per-shipment basis. This process, said TSA, requires enhanced screening for shipments designated as higher risk, while lower risk shipments will undergo other physical screening protocols.”

All international inbound air cargo on passenger aircraft will be required to undergo physical screening, explained Fotenos. For security reasons, he said TSA does not disclose physical screening requirements and procedures.

The U.S.-EU agreement was positively received by Brandon Fried, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Airforwarders Association (AfA).

“It is a good day for shippers, airlines, and air freight forwarders,” said Fried. “We are big advocates of upstream screening: looking at cargo before it even arrives at the airport for departure. I think the EU has designs on that and certainly will be looking at shipment data in advance of departure, much like what is happening in the U.S.”

Fried said the most important aspect of this announcement is that it will eliminate what he said was the duplicate and triplicate screening which often occurs, whereas now the U.S. and EU will know each others screening processes are commensurate with their respective standards.

Going forward, Fried said the next big challenge will be for the U.S. to focus on those nations that are not in compliance with U.S. screening standards, as it presents a major burden for airlines, especially with the December 3 100 percent U.S.-inbound cargo screening requirement looming.

The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) was also encouraged by today’s announcement.

“The US-EU Cargo Security Agreement marks a major step forward in one of the most important air cargo markets,” said Tony Tyler, IATA Director General and CEO, in a statement. “This agreement is a great example of what can be achieved when stakeholders cooperate as partners with a common purpose. Regulators and industry have worked closely together throughout over seven years with a focus on harmonization and better security. We hope that this agreement is the cornerstone for further alignment, especially for passenger security. This partnership model should serve as a template for other national regulators moving towards risk-based security regimes.”

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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