Airforwarders Association calls on White House for global collaboration on air cargo security
November 11, 2010 - LM Editorial
Prior to this week’s G20 Summit in Seoul, Korea, the Washington, D.C.-based Airforwarders Association (AfA) sent a letter to President Barack Obama replete with suggestions on how the Administration could best work on making improvements and changes to air cargo security processes in light of the October attempts by terrorists to send explosives originating from Yemen to the United States on cargo and passenger planes.
In the letter, the AfA told President Obama that “[n]ow is the time to call upon the world’s leading trading partners to quickly develop a harmonized, risk-based air cargo security program.”
And with the theme of the G20 Summit being economic growth, the AfA letter explained that a key component in achieving that growth is ensuring efficient supply chains are in place to facilitate trade. The AfA said that this is imperative, considering that while air cargo represents only a tiny fraction of global trade tonnage, estimates are that fully one-third of the value of goods moving worldwide do so as air cargo.
What’s more, the AfA said that “imposing impulsive, ‘feel good’ solutions inevitably leaves gaps in the safety net which sooner or later may be exploited.”
A major step needed to help facilitate strong air cargo security, the AfA told President Obama, would be for the U.S. and its G20 colleagues to form an international working group to develop realistic, risk-based and multi-layered solutions to air cargo security.
“Calling for the screening of every box and parcel might initially appear effective, but only diverts focus, time, money and resources from more meaningful, risk based, proven multi-layered solutions,” said the AfA letter. “We don’t need more time and money wasted on ‘security theatre.’ Now is the time to invest in meaningful results. With the G20, you have a unique setting to get that message across to our trading partners around the world.”
In an interview with LM, AfA Executive Director Brandon Fried said that he applauds recent steps taken by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to work within a risk-based system of targeting cargo, as opposed to resorting to “extreme” 100 percent screening of every box that do little to improve security and only serves to just slow down commerce and threaten business.
Earlier this week, the White House and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 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.
“[A]ll cargo identified as high risk will go through additional and enhanced screening,” said Napolitano. “These measures also impact inbound international mail packages, which must be screened individually and certified to have come from an established postal shipper. The Administration is also working closely with industry and our international partners to expedite the receipt of cargo manifests for international flights to the United States prior to departure in order to identify and screen items based on risk and current intelligence. We are also working with our international and private sector partners on the expansion of layered detections system including technology and other measures.”
The AfA’s Fried said that as these new requirements are being rolled out, the country needs to make sure non-technology measures, such as canine detection and commodity evaluation, must be employed, as well as focusing not only on the supply chain as has been done in the U.S. with the Certified Cargo Screening Program.
Commodity evaluation, explained Fried, examines things like who the shipper is, who the recipient is, what the cargo looks like, and other things that serve as potential “red flags” in a high-risk shipping environment.
“This is not a TSA problem only,” said Fried. “This is a global problem that requires a global solution where everyone gets together and solves the issue, and I think from my perspective to focus on it as the problem of just one country is really just not getting it right. It brings about the need to coordinate with international partners that is more effective than having a patchwork of bilateral agreements. Having accords that last for the duration of time and protects everyone flying on a plane regardless of destination of country is more effective.”
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