Coming Soon: Air Cargo Inspection Regulations

As recently as a few months ago, many in the air cargo industry believed that implementation of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) mandate to screen 100% of cargo transported on passenger aircraft commensurate with the level of security used for checked baggage was impossible. The original mandate to meet this screening level by August 2010 came about through the passage of the “Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007.”

The doubts for industry compliance revolved around a lack of sophisticated screening technology being available and affordable across the United States. Currently, the level of screening is 100% of cargo on narrow body aircraft and 50% of wide body aircraft.

In September, the TSA announced an Interim Final Rule implementing the Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP), which was previously a pilot program. The new rule states that entities can apply to become a Certified Cargo Screening Facility. Once approved, the facility would enforce a TSA security program to enforce a secure chain-of-custody for cargo from the time it is screened to when it is loaded on passenger aircraft.

The CCSP program is one of the keys to solving the challenges to compliance, but it’s not the only strategy that should be put into place. If the airlines end up having to screen 100% of cargo at the airports it will cause an extreme bottleneck and loss of efficiency that would be detrimental to the national economy.

With that in mind, here are several additional strategies to allow the industry to meet the TSA mandate in time.

Set up more CCSP locations: While it is great that the CCSP is being expanded with the new interim rule, there are still no facilities in crucial airports in Oregon, Nevada, Idaho and Arizona. Without the establishment of more locations quickly, the ensuing bottleneck in the supply chain in August 2010 could have a disastrous effect on critical and perishable cargo.

Roll out wide body screening facilities first: With 75% of cargo that needs screening being shipped on wide body aircraft, it would be most efficient for the TSA to focus on getting facilities established at terminals that service wide body aircraft as opposed to terminals that service narrow body jets.

Encourage more shippers to participate in the certified narrow jet program: One of the biggest challenges to the industry is the high percentage of cargo being shipped in wide body aircraft. Additional participation by air forwarders and carriers in shipping through narrow body aircraft could decrease the traffic in the larger screening facilities, where more bottlenecking of cargo is likely to occur.

Integrate security further up in the supply chain: Another option to lessen the flow of traffic to the CCSP locations is to set up additional screening capacity upstream in the supply chain. By approving and validating trusted vendors, we can ensure a secure chain of custody until cargo reaches the aircraft. For example, when Sony produces a television the supplier could adhere tamperproof tape to the box so its contents could be trusted throughout the supply chain.

Establish industry-wide protocols: In the case of expanding the secure vendors program, Congress would be wise to provide more guidance and establish protocols for what type of equipment and security measures need to be undertaken in order to maintain the safety of the cargo.

Additional funding for key stakeholders: Congress needs to continue providing appropriate authorization and funding for key stakeholders in the supply chain. Implementing the security processes to screen cargo prior to arrival at the airport will take additional technology and staff training. In addition, the airports themselves may not have the space or be able to afford the imaging machines for large cargo.

By supporting trusted stakeholders and implementing these strategies, Congress and the TSA can increase our nation’s security while still maintaining a robust air cargo system. And yes, it is possible for this to happen by August 2010.

Christopher Alf is founder of National Air Cargo, a provider of freight forwarding services for military and industrial customers.

This article originally appeared in the Logistics Today digital magazine. To read other articles from that issue, click here: http://penton.ebookhost.net/lt/ebook/12/

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