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Forwarders speak up about U.S. air cargo advanced screening

By Staff Reports on June 5, 2014

A coalition of associations representing airfreight forwarding companies is calling on the U.S. federal government to solicit input from small- and medium-sized forwarders before expanding the Air Cargo Advanced Screening (ACAS) program.

The program, which analyzes advance data on inbound air shipments to the U.S. to assess risk, is in pilot phase, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has signaled that they intend to expand it to apply to all inbound air cargo via a rulemaking.

The Airforwarders Association, the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America, The International Air Cargo Association and the Express Delivery and Logistics Association have jointly sent letters to CBP and the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), noting their support of the concept of the ACAS program’s risk-based analysis at the shipment level, but saying “we are concerned about certain issues which we feel have not yet been fully resolved within the ACAS pilot.” 

In addition to detailing issues regarding potential negative effects on small- and medium-sized air forwarding businesses, the letters included requests to meet with both agencies and representatives from air carriers in June to discuss the concerns and try to resolve them.  

The four associations are concerned that the ACAS pilot program has involved only a handful of forwarders, mostly larger operations that already have integrated supply chains and an overseas infrastructure. Their letters emphasized that the pilot has not included smaller forwarding companies “that rely on an extensive network of independent agents at overseas airports” and for whom “the size and scope of their technology infrastructure…varies widely.”  

The groups pointed to other issues of concern, including that ACAS may not take into account variances among U.S. trading partners in the applicability and procedures of their own screening programs, most notably that not all countries of origination allow forwarders to screen cargo. 

Another key area of concern has to do with the “targeting rule sets” for determining when additional high-risk screening will be performed. The TSA letter further outlines concerns about operational procedures for forwarders' screening of targeted shipments into the U.S., which have also not yet been fully tested.