TSA sets December deadline for 100 percent air cargo screening for international U.S-bound flights
May 18, 2012
The Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said this week that it has set a December 3, 2012 deadline, which requires passenger air carriers to conduct 100 percent cargo screening on international inbound flights.
This initiative is mandated as part of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act, which was put forth when former President George W. Bush signed “H.R. 1 Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007” into law in August 2007.
This legislation required the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish a system to enable to airline industry 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 requires all air cargo to be screened at the piece level prior to transport on a passenger aircraft for flights bound for the United States, according to TSA. 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.
This has already been happening on the passenger aircraft side for domestic aircraft since August 2010, when TSA announced the airline industry met a key requirement of the 9/11 Act by screening 100 percent of air cargo on domestic aircraft and is continuing to utilize a multi-layered approach to air cargo security, including procedures for known and established shippers to ship cargo on domestic passenger aircraft, deploying explosive detection canine teams, and conducting covert tests and no-notice inspections of cargo operations.
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.
“Harmonizing security efforts with our international and industry partners is a vital step in securing the global supply chain,” said TSA Administrator John S. Pistole in a statement. “By making greater use of intelligence, TSA can strengthen screening processes and ensure the screening of all cargo shipments without impeding the flow of commerce.”
TSA’s efforts were applauded by Brandon Fried, executive director of the Washington, DC-based Airforwarders Association (AfA), whom described it as an enormous undertaking.
This requires agreements to be harmonized between the U.S. Department of State and nearly 200 countries, he explained.
“TSA is starting with the low-hanging fruit and dealing with the countries that ship most of the freight into the U.S.,” said Fried. “It won’t disclose which countries there are agreements with, but we have been told there are four of them, with another 20 in the pipeline and those 20 comprise approximately 80 percent of the cargo coming into the U.S.”
AfA’s primary concern with this effort is that there is a supply chain solution, akin to what is being done in the U.S. with a supply chain solution that allows these countries to conduct screening off airport, coupled with airline partners not being overly burdened with screening tasks.
That is a big concern as freight tender times are increased with airlines forced to do screening, but in the U.S. Fried said a vast majority of screening is done off airport by parties not associated with carriers at forwarders’ warehouses.
“When I ask TSA what percentage of freight is arriving at airports pre-screened before departure, I am told it is in excess of 60 percent,” said Fried. “That is an enormous number. If a country is not going to permit a supply chain screening solution like we have here, that means that burden is going to shift to the airlines and be problematic for us. We will see that in the form of missed flights and delayed shipments, which are our biggest concerns at this point.”
And Fried added that the AfA is pushing hard for a trusted shipper concept in which data is collected prior to flight departure, which is something it has been calling for well before the UPS Yemen incident in 2010, when terrorists tried to send explosives originating from Yemen to the United States on cargo and passenger planes.
Leveraging solely on technology for 100 percent screening is a big mistake, he said, and now the onus is on looking at cargo in terms of who is shipping it and where it is headed. But from that data comes the ability to start trusting shippers who are frequent senders that are known to be safe and not be subjected to the same screening levels as someone who shows up occasionally at the airport and wants to ship a box.
“We are really pushing for TSA to expedite the trusted shipper process—whatever that might be—and get definitions going and working with other countries and start harmonizing our standards for trusted shippers,” he said. “We are very encouraged by how the U.S. and the European Union are going to be sharing known shipper data, because we all need to be on the same page.”
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