Air Cargo Security Moves Up The Supply Chain

July 23, 2008
John Sammon submitted oral and written statements to the US House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure Protection

“Essentially, this legislation mandates the reinvention of air cargo security,” John Sammon, assistant administrator Transportation Security Administration (TSA), told a US House of Representatives committee.

Sammon submitted oral and written statements to the US House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure Protection. He commented on requirements of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 which required 50% screening of air cargo flying on passenger aircraft by February 2009 and 100% screening by August 2010.

Among the “significant challenges” posed by the requirement is the potential congestion at airports if screening is done there. There are not the facilities, manpower or space to accomplish the tasks, Sammon indicated. Approximately 12 million pounds of cargo is transported daily on passenger aircraft, Sammon pointed out. TSA has identified 18 airports which account for 65% of the cargo transported on passenger aircraft and is conducting pilot programs that screen the cargo earlier in the process and provides a secure chain of custody from the originator of the cargo to the aircraft that will transport it. TSA notes that 61% of the cargo transported on widebody aircraft originates at six of these airports.

The Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP) is a voluntary program under which TSA will certify cargo screening facilities to screen cargo before it is tendered to aircraft operators for carriage on passenger aircraft, explained Sammon. Facilities upstream in the air cargo supply chain such as shippers, manufacturers, warehousing entities, distributors and third party logistics companies will be able to apply to TSA to be designated as certified cargo screening facilities, he said.

With more the larger air cargo users performing inspections upstream, away from the airport facilities, this should free the airport operations to handle the shipments from smaller and less-frequent air cargo users. TSA is already working with 70 indirect air carrier facilities and over 100 shipper locations which are undergoing the validation process to become Certified Cargo Screening Facilities (CCSF).

Highlighting the problem of shipments for widebody aircraft (the majority of which are international), Sammon explained to legislators that those shipments are typically tendered as consolidated, palletized loads. Further, explained Sammon, Unit Load Devices (ULDs) used to consolidate air shipments can hold up to 11,000 lbs. of cargo. “If all cargo were to be screened only at airports by air carriers, they would have to either (a) break down/remove cargo from all ULDs previously built up by indirect air carriers (IACs), screen the cargo, and rebuild the ULDs, or (b) require the IACs to tender the cargo 'loose,' and then the carrier would screen the cargo and build up all of the containers.

TSA is developing an Interim Final Rule to implement the Certified Cargo Screening Program which it hops to publish by the end of calendar-year 2008 and deploy in fiscal-year 2009.

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