The U.S. Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are moving forward with their joint Air Cargo Advance Screening pilot program, TSA Administrator John Pistole told AirCargo 2012 attendees in Miami. Pistole, who reiterated airfreight’s vulnerability to a terrorist attack, believes the ability to provide shipment-level data prior to takeoff will help the airfreight industry mitigate risk.
“The more intelligence that we can have on the front end, the better informed judgments we can make as to distinguish between known shippers and shipments by those who are unknown,” Pistole told conference attendees. “If we can make decisions on the front end [about a particular parcel], then we can do a better job of working together to [block it from the flight].”
Some insiders believe the ACAS pilot program could be the industry’s answer to meeting the TSA’s goal of 100-percent screening of U.S.-bound freight. A three-phased, voluntary initiative, ACAS allows parties to submit electronic data about a parcel prior to shipment; that way, high-risk freight can be identified, according to a press release issued by the TSA.
Pistole hopes to take this approach one step further in the future. “Eventually, our goal is to use this methodology across the board as we seek to quickly and effectively perform solid, risk-based analysis of not only all shippers, but also of every shipment entering the United States by air, regardless of the carrier,” Pistole said at the conference.
In fact, Pistole told AirCargo 2012 attendees that he envisions a “paradigm shift” in how the U.S. approaches airfreight security, thanks to technological improvements and new insights into cargo screening.
CBP Acting Deputy Commissioner Tom Winkowski also endorsed the ACAS pilot program at AirCargo 2012. Touting it as a “game-changer,” Winkowski explained that the program could dictate how the U.S. processes cargo from a prevention and screening standpoint. “The old model’s out, and the new model’s in,” Winkowski said. After all, “we better create the roadmap before someone creates it for us.”
U.S. Airforwarders Association Executive Director Brandon Fried also spoke out about the ACAS pilot program, addressing it in the March issue of Air Cargo World. In his monthly Forwarders Forum column, Fried said that “analyzing shipment data before departure provides an opportunity to pinpoint those shipments that may be the most threatening.”
Still, he expressed the importance of keeping ACAS data consistent with the World Customs Organization’s Data Model and inviting shippers into future ACAS discussions, two points driven home by members of the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group.
“The Airforwarders Association…further urges CBP to recognize that many airfreight forwarders deliver efficient and flexible shipping solutions through vast international agent networks,” Fried wrote. “While these agents provide excellent support through their local knowledge and expertise, they may not share the same electronic platforms of their U.S. forwarder customers.”
In his address to the members of AirCargo 2012, Winkowski admitted that the CBP initially downplayed the role of freight forwarders in the cargo-screening process.