Tuesday, November 30, 2010

EU Transport Commissioner Sounds Off On Freight Security And Traffic Offences

Siim Kallas Proposes Changes to a Mixed Reaction
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE – After the recent air cargo bomb scares when explosives were discovered in printer cartridges in the UK and Dubai many people were surprised at the fact that freight is frequently, in some cases usually, carried in the holds of passenger flights. Now the EU transport minister, Estonian Siim Kallas, has announced he will outline various measures at a meeting in Brussels on Thursday with a view to countering the problem.

As we have detailed previously the exact nature of security checks on air cargo at locations around the world are simply not up for discussion, a fact that seems an anathema to some parts of the media and common sense to the rest of us. The proposals Mr Kallas will put forward detail the case for even more cooperation by the authorities and air carriers and their agents rather than being precise procedures to be undertaken, indeed he has apparently already dismissed the idea that every freight consignment will be subjected to full security checks.

The general proposals which were arrived at by a group consisting of industry representatives and experts from various parts of the relevant departments of Member States were agreed at a meeting in the Civil Aviation Security Regulatory Committee yesterday are:

• New harmonised EU cargo and mail security controls. New legislative proposals in relation to cargo originating from outside the EU to ensure harmonisation of tactics by all carriers to the highest industry standards. This proposal effectively spotlights goods more likely to prove a security risk as they emanate outside a recognised and validated supply chain. More investment in investigating new technologies used in the screening and identification of suspect cargo.

• EU coordination. A common EU threat assessment capability will also be developed so that EU security rules can be adapted to actual and evolving risks.

• Global approach. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) audits and capacity building initiatives should be used as primary tools to strengthen aviation security, including cargo in non-EU countries. ICAO's latest revision to Annex 17 which enhances cargo security rules should be swiftly implemented by its contracting states and adequate guidance should be developed and provided to help implement its standards and recommended practices.

Whilst the commissioners proposals are to be welcomed it seems that the general view of industry experts is that only the combination of good intelligence coupled with individual diligence by all freight forwarders and air cargo carriers will minimise future incidents. Once again experience may be our best defence against a sustained terrorist threat.

Meanwhile Mr Kallas has caused some concern for British transport authorities with his proposal that an EU wide database be utilised to prosecute drivers, for offences committed abroad, in their home countries. The problem of prosecuting drivers travelling in foreign registered cars and trucks is one well known to local police who struggle to identify drivers accurately in such circumstances.

Readers may recall that Mr Prawo Jazdy was Irelands most wanted driver up to February this year when the Garda discovered that officers countrywide had not written a name but the phrase ‘driving licence’ meaning that the criminal legend being looked for by every officer was actually a translation error.

According to reports Mike Penning, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, believes the scheme will need a good deal of reviewing before becoming practical despite his wish to cooperate more closely with other EU authorities in the long term and therefore Britain is likely to veto any proposed measures at this stage.

Photo: Siim Kallas, European Commissioner for Transport and former Prime Minister of Estonia.