Cooperation for greater security

August will see another deadline missed to deliver effective security for belly-hold freight on passenger flights. The news was broken by Gale Rossides, Acting Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in testimony before the Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on Homeland Security in the US House of Representatives in early March.

Rossides told the subcommittee that while 100 per cent screening of belly-hold cargo on domestic flights would be achieved by the deadline, it would take up to another two years before the same could be said for inbound international belly-hold cargo.

The delay has been caused by problems in getting foreign government cooperation. Some 20 core countries are responsible for around 85 per cent of air freight shipments to the US. Delegates at the 2nd Lufthansa Cargo Security Conference held in Frankfurt heard that this failure in getting agreements was largely of TSA’s own making though.

Warren Miller, the TSA’s International Air Cargo Branch Chief, admitted that the organisation had initially been “myopic” in its approach to achieving 100 per cent screening, given a primary focus on purely domestic rather than domestic and international air freight security. He went on to say that TSA is “not even at pilot stage” in rolling out a long term, layered approach based around risk targeting.

Aside from stating that rhetoric is poles apart from reality, he proffered only that US experience indicated that focus on the supply chain was the best way forward for imports, adding the usual mantra about harmonising and strengthening global standards.

The best version
A cynic might argue that the initially myopic focus he spoke about, was driven by a belief held in Washington D.C. that the rest of the world would simply roll over and accept that their way is the best way and the only game in town. The cynics would, undoubtedly, be correct in that assertion.

Europe has, in part, already bent to US will. The European Commission regulation 300/2008 incorporates many of the tougher US requirements and replaces previously published regulation enforced after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Eckard Seebohm, head of Aviation Security, European Commission (EC), is on record diplomatically stating that a working group comprising shippers, forwarders, airlines and airports, had examined all the issues pertaining to air-freight security and concluded that mistakes had been made when the previous regulation (2320/2002) passed into law.

Consequently, 300/2008 includes three specific and much more robust elements (independent validation of known consignors; a mandatory EU cargo database embracing known and unknown or unaccredited consignors and a distinction between direct and transit cargo) that match US policy. Introducing new regulation is one thing but turning regulation into practice is quite another though.

Tough challenges ahead
Seebohm admits that there are huge challenges ahead for the aviation industry and the supply chain, not least of which is the requirement for independent validation of known consignors. He is also on record stating that the US may just have to accept an alternative (such as sniffer dogs) to x-raying every item of belly-hold freight, given that the piece level 100 per cent screening requirement favoured by the TSA could potentially bring air-freight movement between Europe and the US to a grinding halt if a hardware only solution were to be rigidly enforced.

A disconnect also remains in respect to timing. TSA’s Rossides states that it will take another two years before 100 per cent international air freight screening will be achieved. Seebohm favours a three-year transition period since some countries remain woefully behind the curve in their preparations.

With EC regulation 300/2008 having just become law and much debate consequently still raging between regulators and within the industry over how best to achieve compliance, the key issues will be outlined and discussed in detail at the forthcoming Transport Security Expo & Conference, being held 14-15 September at London Olympia.

This annual event will bring focus to many of the fundamental issues the regulation raises, help in identifying who within the extended supply chain has responsibility for what and attempt to answer the vexed at what cost question.

Principal speakers from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Association of European Airlines (AEA), Swissport, CEVA Logistics, Cargolux and DHL amongst others, will share knowledge and invite in-depth discussion on achieving a 100 per cent cargo screening regime within a one-stop security environment.

Considerable disquiet remains about the industry’s ability to secure the supply chain fully given that very many questions remain perplexedly unanswered at the regulatory level. Not least of these questions is the unknown cost of accreditation and validation. How many consignors within the supply chain become accredited will depend on both the bottom line figure and how onerous the process of validation is.

Ekhard Seebohm has said that the one-stop security approach for cargo should not be over complicated since it provides a framework for all known consignors and regulated agents to be recognised throughout all European Union member states. He admits that the validation requirement will probably result in a sharp drop in the number of known consignors though.

Whilst it’s patently obvious that many low volume consignors will simply not bother with accreditation since cost would likely outstrip value, there are clear rumblings along similar lines from larger volume consignors as well. A representative of Siemens told the Lufthansa Cargo conference held earlier in the year that while it takes supply chain security very seriously indeed, “certified consignor status will increase costs drastically”.

A more viable process
The back story in much of this discussion is that a strongly held belief remains that centralised screening at or close to airports may be a more viable process. Seebohm makes the point that this approach would serve only to create major bottlenecks at airports, thus severely hampering just in time trade.

He stressed that, for the time being, the priority had to be getting the EU-originating US bound screening methodology right, with focus shifting to other related matters over time. Referring to in-transit air freight, he says that he’s still looking for a measured and reasonable approach that will obviate US All Cargo International Security Programme requirement for  exhaustive searches of aircraft loading goods from non certified airports outside of the EU.

These issues and very many more will undoubtedly be aired at the Transport Security Expo & Conference in September and it remains critically important that those with a vested in the air freight arena attend to let their views be heard. We may only be talking about a known consignor programme that’s been given a course of steroids and a US style makeover, but the requirements could have a profound effect on your business and bottom line.

About Transport Security Expo & Conference
Formerly known as TranSec World Expo, this event enters its 8th successful year as the pre-eminent Transport Security Expo and Conference. It remains the only event of its kind globally to bring together the full spectrum of key stakeholders and industry leaders with the areas of Aviation, Maritime and the Supply Chain security under one roof to debate the major issues facing us today. The event features an exhibition, conferences, workshops and all important networking opportunities. Transport Security Expo & Conference moves to London for 2010 and will take place in the Olympia Conference and Exhibition centre, 14-15 September.

About the author
Chris Yates is the principal of Yates Consulting, a specialist consultancy with a focus on aviation safety and security matters. He will chair the second day of the Transport Security Expo aviation security conference on 15th September 2010.

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