Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New EU Freight Security Rules Have Air Cargo Interests Expressing Concern

Interruption to the Supply Chain Might Result from Implementation So Soon Says TIACA
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE –WORLDWIDE – A note of caution was sounded recently after some intensive discussions between the EU Commission and various bodies who are stakeholders with regard to air cargo security. EU policy has long assessed the dangers posed by air freight and passengers in two separate ways. Whilst the Commission itself describes the need for ‘improved passenger screening methods in order to ensure high security levels with minimum hassle’, it has for a long period advocated consideration of a risk based approach to the security of cargo originating outside the EU. Recently this policy has been intensified with the intent of standardising protection measures no matter where goods emanate from.

Now, after a series of meetings to prepare for the launch of new obligatory EU regulations on air cargo security which come into force on 1 July 2014, the International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) says that although it welcomes developments so far, much work remains to be done. In fact, TIACA is concerned that the new regulations fall outside industry goals of a common, unified approach to global security standards.

Essentially under the new rules, any carrier bringing in shipments to the EU and EFTA trade areas from an airport outside those zones must ensure that an EU aviation security validation of their cargo (or mail) operations has been carried out, at each such airport, by an independent expert. Only when the carrier has satisfied the authorities by way of this independent validation that their processes within the non EU airport are up to the mark will they be granted the status of 'Air Cargo or Mail Carrier operating into the Union from a Third Country Airport' (ACC3).

To obtain the ACC3 status an air carrier has to deliver a 'Declaration of Commitments' concerning the fulfilment of its aviation security responsibilities to the civil aviation authorities of an EU Member State for every non-EU airport from which it flies cargo or mail into the EU. The template for the 'Declaration of Commitments' is laid down by EU law. Air carriers are also required to nominate a person with responsibility for the implementation of cargo and mail requirements.

ACC3’s must ensure that all cargo and mail carried to the EU is physically screened or comes from a ‘secure supply chain’ which is EU aviation security validated. Also from 1 July 2014, screening needs to take place according to EU standards. If the air carrier does not comply with these requirements, it will not be designated as ACC3 by the appropriate authority of an EU Member State and will subsequently not be allowed to fly cargo and mail into the EU from a non-EU airport. The designation is valid for a maximum of 5 years.

Full details of the scheme are available HERE but TIACA’s concern is that, should the European Commission fail to maintain vigilance over the regulation’s implementation and continued engagement with the industry the air cargo supply chain could be severely disrupted upon implementation of the rules in 2014. TIACA Chairman, Oliver Evans, said:

“While the EU views these ACC3 regulations as an important step towards ensuring a more secure and efficient supply chain over the long term, there are significant challenges to implementing them so quickly. Although we welcome the European Commission’s recent outreach to industry stakeholders, there is still little consistency among EU/EFTA Member States regarding the implementation process, and significantly more outreach is needed between the EU and non-EU civil aviation authorities.

“TIACA believes it is critical to find ways forward that enhance security but which do not disrupt vital commercial air cargo flows. Moreover, TIACA supports the process of developing standards on a global, rather than regional or unilateral basis. We also fully support recognizing the audit methods of other countries’ civil aviation authorities, similar to the mutual recognition between the EU, Switzerland, the US and Canada as a logical means to accomplish global security effectively and efficiently.

“It is essential that airlines and cargo handling organisations continue to take steps to obtain validation before 1 July, 2014, in order to continue transporting cargo into the EU, but they should advise the EU immediately of any significant impediments to undertaking the validation process. As airlines of different nationalities mostly operate out of multiple user facilities in foreign countries, validation and accreditation should be a matter of international recognition to avoid the huge cost and disruption of multiple audits. With less than a year to go until the deadline, continued communication and openness from the European Commission on the availability of accredited validators, and their ability to accomplish this task on time, is absolutely vital.”

The problem of screening every item equates in some ways to the problems the International Maritime Organization faced last week when deciding between weighing every container quayside or, entrusting this to a responsible body where the actual goods were stuffed into the boxes. In either case the ‘on the spot’ solution would appear to be preferable but the nature and volume of international freight makes any attempt to check these details in just one place, either dockside or at a busy airport where transit time is what feeds the industry, almost an impossibility.