TT Talk - US strengthens air cargo security

Dan Negron writes from New Jersey to point out significant changes in US regulations governing the tendering and acceptance of air freight.

In mid-May the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), part of the US Department of Homeland Security, announced requirements relating to the acceptance and carriage of airfreight, in further efforts designed to protect aviation from terrorist attack.

Noting that more than 50,000 tonnes of cargo is transported by passenger and all-cargo aircraft each day, the TSA said that the new security requirements are the first substantial changes to air cargo regulations since 1999, and represent a joint government-industry vision of an enhanced security baseline. TSA assistant secretary Kip Hawley said that the administration was working with shippers and the airline industry on a series of separate operational measures to further increase security in air cargo.

The Air Cargo Final Rule makes permanent some practices already in place and adds others. Major new security measures include:

- Consolidating approximately 4,000 private industry Known Shipper lists into one central

database managed by TSA. This will allow TSA to have more visibility into the activities of companies shipping on passenger aircraft and permit more in-depth vetting of known shippers;

- Requiring background checks of approximately 51,000 off-airport freight forwarder

employees;

- Extending secure areas of airports to include ramps and cargo facilities.

These measures mean that an additional 50,000 cargo aircraft operator employees will have to receive full criminal history background checks, and will be enforced by an expanded force of air cargo inspectors stationed at the 102 airports which account for 95 percent of domestic air cargo.

The details of how to implement the new regulatory changes are spelled out in the security programmes that air carriers and freight consolidators must maintain. Draft security programs will be provided to the carriers and consolidators for comment concurrent with release of the final rule.

Enhancements are expected to be phased in during the next six months.

Full details of the air cargo final rule will be published in the Federal Register in the coming days. Showing that it means to enforce these regulations, the TSA comments that, in recent weeks, three air cargo consolidators have had their licences revoked for breaches of their security procedures, which means also that other carriers may not accept cargo from any of these three companies.

Dan points out that, although it is not specifically mentioned in the administration's press release, the regulations change the definition of an "Indirect Air Carrier" (IAC). The commentary to section 1540.5 states "with these changes, freight forwarders who offer cargo to operators of larger all-cargo aircraft must have a TSA-approved security program." Under section 1548.11(a) an IAC is banned from using any individual to perform any security-related duties to meet the requirements of its security program unless that individual has received the training specified in its security program. This requirement covers employees and agents performing security-related duties for the IAC.