Thursday, January 16, 2014

Customs Agencies Warned About Cargo Screening Problems by Air Freight Specialist

Coordination Needed Before Unilateral Action says TIACA Boss
Shipping News Feature

BELGIUM – WORLDWIDE – The meeting of the World Customs Organization’s (WCO) Annual Technical Experts Group on Air Cargo Security Conference in Brussels was cautioned by TIACA Secretary General Doug Brittin against taking unilateral action to require submission of certain customs information for all air cargo shipments, in advance of aircraft departure. Whilst security in the air freight supply chain is of paramount importance, TIACA believes that significant further testing must be conducted into the provision of advance data for shipments and common global standards and procedures must be developed to avoid potentially serious disruption to the flow of world trade.

Mr Brittin advised the customs regulators that TIACA recommended that all regulatory parties coordinate the process through the WCO and that they consult more closely with industry before moving forward on establishing regulations. A similar process should be followed to establish common procedures for member states’ security regulators to ensure common cargo screening methods are in place after the analysis process is completed, he said.

While country specific advance data programmes have been tested by customs regulators, including ACAS in the US, PRECISE in Europe and PACT in Canada, and some results shared through the WCO and other venues, gaps in ‘global standards’ remain. Brittin said the air cargo industry fully supports the concept of advance data risk analysis, stating that many positive lessons had been learned in relation to the creation of data sets, data transmission, data analysis and the message ‘return’ process. However he highlighted a series of challenges that must still be overcome which included the lack of compatibility between many carrier and forwarder IT systems, inaccurate or incomplete information, wide variations in the timing of data availability, and limited testing of forwarder capabilities, especially outside of the US.

Another big challenge for industry, according to TIACA, is the diverse regulatory needs of customs and security regulators, ranging from information acceptance, analysis and messaging, to action and physical screening. While compliance is the responsibility of both customs and security regulators, both have different needs that often involve separate functions within industry management structures, and there are concerns about advance data analysis (notably systems and standards are not yet established) ‘operational’ testing is not yet sufficient in terms of getting messages to the freight dock in time, and airline and forwarder responsibilities and roles are not fully defined. Mr Brittin questioned various parts of the process, saying:

“Real rule sets are not yet tested and it is essential to determine cost, effort and capability. Actual screening protocols lack common practices, even within some of the mutual recognition practices such as the US/EU, Canada, Japan and others. Further questions surround issues such as how e-AWB and e-CSD (trusted shipper) messaging procedures could link to a regulator data scheme. Will customs regimes impose penalties on advance filings and, if so, against whom? Without common customs and security regulatory processes, cargo transiting or transferring at a gateway may be required to be located, off-loaded and screened, and the shipment may be only one piece in a ULD container. Carriers may be required to submit the same or similar data to multiple customs regimes, based on routing. We also face a situation where different screening procedures, varying by country, will continue for targeted, higher risk shipments.”

As the next step, TIACA wants customs and security regulators to work with industry to ensure data elements, analysis and messaging procedures, screening and response protocols are all standardised. The Association says the best way to achieve this is by customs regulators and industry working collaboratively through the WCO while security regulators work to develop common ‘targeted’ cargo screening and compliance standards whilst in the meantime, regulators continue to utilise the current testing approach and procedures until multilateral global standards are established.

Photo: Doug Brittin