Regulating an industry: TSA's push for total cargo screening
They discovered it on a Friday. While screening cargo on a U.S.-bound freighter departing from Yemen, investigators found a bomb encased in a toner cartridge. Although U.K officials intercepted the device before it could detonate, the would-be act of violence caused a global uproar.
In addition to reinforcing the need for stringent security measures, the October 2010 incident also highlighted the vulnerability of airfreight to a terrorist attack. It’s this latter point that has many aviation insiders advocating the universal implementation of 100-percent cargo screening.
This practice is nothing new for passenger planes in the U.S. Congressionally mandated in the 9/11 Act of 2007, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was ordered to develop a way to screen all cargo carried on passenger aircraft by August 2010.
The industry hit the deadline, and in the year following its inception, the TSA has monitored all freight transported on domestic and international outbound passenger jets originating in the U.S. This has been accomplished through airline screening and the organization’s certified cargo screening program (CCSP).
An integral part of the 9/11 Act, the CCSP seeks to expedite the screening process by allowing entities that have met rigorous standards inspect freight. According to the TSA, only airlines were previously authorized to screen bellyhold cargo.
Now the TSA wants other nations to follow its lead. But will it be able to parlay its success with the CCSP into international law? Will the industry meet the TSA’s proposed December 31 deadline for screening all U.S.-bound cargo? And does the U.S. even have the authority to impose such regulations?
A fixed deadline?
The TSA’s Jim Fotenos wants to set the record straight: Despite industry rumblings, December 31 is a guideline — not a mandate. Fotenos says his organization is also soliciting feedback from key industry personnel about the feasibility of this date. Fortunately, he asserts, the CCSP serves as a prototype for other nations to follow.
What’s more, Fotenos says that all international carriers use the TSA’s screening requirements, except countries that have programs commensurate with the organization’s National Cargo Security Program (NCSP).
“And TSA is working with international partners on their NCSPs to ensure a level of security equivalent to existing U.S. air cargo security standards. [This] will help expedite legitimate commerce and trade throughout the global supply chain by eliminating the need for carriers to adhere to multiple security processes in a given country,” Fotenos says.
Fotenos also points to the numerous security alliances the U.S. has formed, including entering into the Quadrilateral Agreement with Australia, Canada and the European Union, and uniting with 190 other nations to adopt the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Declaration on Aviation Security.
The TSA also issued another directive in March, increasing surveillance on high-risk international cargo. Under the new mandate, freight forwarders and airlines are required to obtain additional information from shippers that lack established relationships with them.
Michael Steen, chairman of The International Air Cargo Association, says these regulations speak volumes about the TSA’s push for tighter security. He also credits the CCSP with reducing bottlenecks in the cargo screening process. “Without [this program], I’m sure we would have experienced significant disruptions in August 2010 when the 100-percent deadline was imposed in the U.S.,” he says.
Steen still sees some room for concern. “As a strong supporter of supply-chain security practices, we’d like to see TSA recognize other countries’ programs or a CCSP-compatible program in place in those countries that lack them,” he says.
Not that all this has been a problem in France, Air France Cargo-KLM Cargo’s Jean-Claude Raynaud asserts. After closely scrutinizing France’s screening methods and technology, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deemed the nation’s security levels on par with TSA requirements.