Tighter Rules For Air Cargo

Remarks by Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), implied all airfreight would undergo the same security screening as passengers’ baggage. In fact, he was reiterating that packages tendered to airlines in what is referred to as counter-to-counter service would be screened by TSA. DHS has not yet moved to inspect 100% of air cargo.

That said, TSA has tripled the amount of cargo it requires to be inspected and it has tripled the number of cargo inspectors in the field enforcing these requirements. In its Fiscal Year 2006 Operations and Inspections appropriation for air cargo security, TSA received $55 million, which funds personnel costs for 300 dedicated cargo inspectors and operational programs such as the Known Shipper Management System. Another $30 million was appropriated to DHS Science and Technology for research and development programs to identify new and improved methods for screening cargo.

As part of its security program, TSA has 375 certified explosive detection canine teams deployed at 75 U.S. airports. These teams spend 25% of their time on cargo related duties, according to TSA. TSA Transportation Security Officers also screen cargo tendered within the airport terminal (such as the counter-to-counter product previously mentioned) and at other airport locations—presumably cargo handling terminals.

Though information is sketchy on changes to the Known Shipper Program, TSA has said it will shift to an automated Known Shipper Management System using commercial databases to verify the legitimacy of shippers. Stricter requirements have been disseminated to regulated parties (air carriers and indirect air carriers) requiring more information on shippers. Similar efforts to access more passenger data have resulted in long debates over privacy rights, particularly with the European Union. Sticking points on the shipper side tend to focus on sensitive business information and who will have access to it.

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