Avoid Delayed Shipments as Air Cargo Screening Mandate Takes Effect

A day that seemed far off upon the 2007 passage of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act (9/11 Act) is fast approaching for business owners that ship or receive goods via aircraft. On August 1, 2010, all cargo that is transported on passenger aircrafts must be screened in one of several ways to ensure the safety of the public.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been gradually implementing this mandate over time by increasing the percentage of cargo screened. First, it was required that 50% of materials were checked before being loaded onto an aircraft. Then, TSA upped the figure to 75% on May 1, 2010. Now, the final transition to 100% air cargo screening will take place on August 1, achieving total compliance with the 9/11 Act.

Air cargo may be screened with technology, either by X-ray, explosive trace detection or an explosive detection system. It can also be screened through other techniques such as canine or physical searches. Since airlines will experience a sudden increase in the amount of cargo that must be examined, shippers will likely be subjected to delays when they rely on airlines to perform the required screening. For large consolidations of shipments, businesses should anticipate 24-48 hour delays for getting their goods through the airport bottleneck.

Tip for Success: Plan Ahead
The key for businesses to be successfully compliant with the air cargo screening mandate without experiencing shipment delays is to have a plan of action. Many companies are putting off the task of analyzing the air cargo mandate's potential impact on outbound shipments to customers and inbound shipments from suppliers. With a company's timeliness, customer satisfaction and reputation at stake with each shipment, business leaders need to actively prepare for the air cargo screening mandate.

To help businesses ensure an easier transition to 100% air cargo screening, the TSA created a program called the Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP), which allows businesses to become Certified Cargo Screening Facilities (CCSFs). This certification means that the facility can pre-screen its cargo before it arrives at an airport, thus ensuring that materials are not held up and strategic supply chain flow is not disrupted.

CCSP Barriers
Unfortunately, many shippers are not taking advantage of this opportunity to maintain peace of mind in their operation's continuity by becoming certified through CCSP. For example, we know of only two facilities that have obtained CCSF status in the entire state of Maryland.

The process to gain CCSF certification is not extremely difficult, but requires a facility to allocate personnel resources to manage the screening process. This need for dedicated time, initial investment and attention may be barriers that deter companies from becoming CCSFs. CCSP is especially attractive to businesses that ship sensitive or valuable materials, such as the pharmaceutical and high-tech industries, because there is always risk of damaged or compromised goods when relying on airport screenings.

To become a CCSF, a facility must meet certain requirements to achieve TSA's stamp of approval. First, potential employees and contractors must be screened through a process that asserts they meet TSA standards. Also, supervisors must conduct reviews of employees with cargo access, as well as security threat assessments of all employees. Personnel who are involved in the air cargo screening process must receive specialized training. CCSFs also should be prepared for random spot checks from TSA staff.

Another requirement for CCSP participants involves carrying out procedures that prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing or tampering with the air cargo at the storage, packaging or screening facilities.

TSA also requires CCSFs to "maintain chain of custody standards for screened cargo," such as documentation that is included with the shipment, methods of ensuring security throughout the shipping process and authentication by each party involved in the supply chain.

According to TSA, potential CCSFs include facilities at several points throughout the supply chain: manufacturers, warehouses, distribution centers, third-party logistics providers (3PLs), Indirect Air Carriers (IACs), airport cargo handlers and Independent Cargo Screening Facilities (ICSFs).

In-House Screening Benefits
Benefits of the voluntary CCSP include allowing shippers to screen cargo when and where it is packaged, thus maintaining the packing integrity of the shipment. The materials are monitored in the location that makes the most sense for the shipper, as well as for the integrity of the cargo. Individual pieces of cargo can be examined before they are consolidated into a larger bulk shipment, rather than being dismantled and then reassembled by an employee at the airport who is unfamiliar with the shipment.

For instance, an art museum opted to become a CCSF so that the valuable works of art it often transports around the world would not be exposed or handled in an airport setting. CCSP shippers have the reassurance that when they screen air cargo at their CCSF, the cargo is secure until it is loaded onto the aircraft.

TSA also encourages shippers to consider the CCSP as a cost-effective solution to the 100% screening requirement.

Avoid Delays Without CCSF Commitment
For companies that cannot justify sacrificing the resources necessary to become a compliant CCSF, yet cannot risk the airport screening delays predicted by TSA, there is another option to use an Independent Cargo Screening Facility (ISCF). These locations are also authorized by TSA to monitor cargo that will be shipped via passenger air carrier. 3PLs can work with shippers to manage their air cargo screening process at trusted ISCFs, ensuring that shipment time sensitivities are met and vulnerable cargo is screened with care.

Anyone can appreciate the 9/11 Act's effort to maintain safety in the sky and on the ground for airline passengers and staff. While compliance with the air cargo screening mandate may require time on the part of the business, either in shipment delay or personnel attention to the CCSP, putting a plan in place can help ensure a seamless transition to a more secure sky. Supply chain management companies are a recommended partner that can act as a guide to navigate shippers through air cargo screening compliance.


Sam Polakoff is president of TBB Global Logistics Inc., a 64-year-old firm specializing in the supply chain needs of small and mid-sized clients. TBB is establishing a network of ICSFs at the nation's major airports to help clients avoid air cargo shipment delays.

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