Sunday, January 30, 2011

Raised Terror Threat Against Air Freight Cargo Prompts New Procedures

US and UK Officials Revue Security Methods
Shipping News Feature

US – UK – After the recent discovery of explosive devices in freight consigned via passenger aircraft at two airports there was a review of security by politicians of both countries with British Home Secretary Theresa May and Transport Secretary Philip Hammond meeting with US Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano during her London visit last week, to discuss the overall situation and the implementation of new techniques and procedures for verifying cargo safety in the future.

Last week Ms Napolitano announced the scrapping of the much derided ‘Traffic Light’ system for identifying security threat levels and its replacement by a threat specific alert christened the ‘National Terrorism Advisory System’ and the high level discussions are believed to have concentrated on establishing unified programmes for cargo inspection centred around securing the supply chain.

New procedures and initiatives agreed with the World Customs Organization (WCO) and with the cooperation of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), whose Secretary General Efthimios Mitropoulos also had talks with the Homeland Security secretary whilst she was in the UK, are the first step in ever tightening controls.

The main thrust of the new initiatives seem to be designed to improve the odds for the security services who are currently very dependent on what Ms Napolitano describes as the ‘better intelligence streams’ the authorities are benefitting from by introducing a ‘Trusted Shipper’ programme and redoubling efforts to inspect any freight that lacks a spotless pedigree.

Such a programme may well weigh heavily against smaller freight forwarders who lack the muscle of the major shipping groups to whom the loss of such status might prove catastrophic. The scheme will parallel the trusted traveller schemes in which US residents can volunteer large amounts of personal information, including biometric identity, to ensure a rapid transit through airport passenger security checks.