Thursday, June 7, 2012

New Cargo Screening and Security Procedures Can Lower Cost of Air Freight

US and EU Come to Accord on Security Matters
Shipping News Feature

US – EUROPE – The agreement between America’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the European Commission to recognise each others air cargo security precautions thus simplifying procedures for shipments of air freight between the two regions has received a warm welcome from all sectors of the shipping community. As from the 1st June the need to recognise the urgency of air freight has been confirmed in press releases by both the TSA and the EU and should lead to less duplication of security processes and a lowering of costs for air cargo operators.

With around a million tonnes a year travelling by air between the US and Europe, the largest air freight market for either partner, there was an obvious need to streamline security measures whilst maintaining standards. The EU wide agreement comes after months of negotiations with individual EU countries having already finalised cargo recognition agreements with US authorities. Previously EU countries were considered as separate risks by the US authorities so even cargo receiving a thorough screening in one EU country would require re-screening if transhipped elsewhere in the European Union. Switzerland, although not a member of the EU, is also included in the arrangement.

FIATA, the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations, says it is particularly pleased with the resultant agreement having lobbied for the move for some time. A FIATA statement today, whilst praising the US and EU representatives for their efforts, does point out that this should be only a first step to a global security standard saying:

“This decision sets also an important precedent showing that mutual recognition is possible even in very complex political systems and where paramount economic and competitive interests play a role, an example for all Regulators to follow! FIATA believes that National Governments and/or Regulators may effectively enhance security by introducing global harmonized supply chain security programs, established on common principles at global level.

“Sadly a universal security programme at global level, in order to facilitate an integrated and secure global supply chain, is not yet in sight, but National Governments and Regulators are encouraged by FIATA to proceed as swiftly as materially possible in this direction, by starting the process to mutually recognise national and/or regional supply chain security programmes. FIATA is looking forward to the worldwide proliferation of such an exemplary agreement with a view to reaching the historical goal of a globally harmonised, trade friendly security regime.”

Stanley Lim, FIATA President, made the following comment to his Board:

“This is the time when we know that all our efforts are really meaningful, even after years of negotiations. Other trading nations must now be engaged more than ever in making their own steps forward, as they also have the proof that much of our expectations are accomplished if we work in an orderly manner with good intentions. It is a milestone towards a universal security programme based on security measure harmonisation.”

Despite the new rules there will however be new requirements for cargo travelling in the belly hold of aircraft carrying passengers which will come into force on the 3rd December 2012. This is a US requirement to ensure every piece of freight shipping this way is screened. Currently only a proportion of cargo carried this way is fully examined. The British International Freight Association (BIFA) has said that this will not affect its UK membership thanks to the hard work put in by the UK freight stakeholders who have already moved to a 100% screening situation and therefore it will be ‘business as usual’.

BIFA has said it is in agreement with the TSA in that the harmonisation of security efforts between international and industry partners is a vital step in securing the global supply chain and it has welcomed the development of additional risk-based, intelligence-driven procedures now in place in the pre-screening process which determine screening protocols on a per-shipment basis. This process requires enhanced screening for shipments designated as higher risk, while lower risk shipments will undergo other physical screening protocols.

Photo: A CX-Pallet™ Cargo Screening machine courtesy of L-3 Communications Security and Detection Systems.