Key concerns included the need for increased compliance with guidelines for the shipment of hazardous materials and the need to deter terrorists from using cargo as a means to place explosives or incendiary devices on aircraft. In addition, congressional hearings regarding the ValuJet crash in Miami that resulted from a cargo hold fire concluded that air cargo safety could be achieved only through a comprehensive inspection program encompassing all components of the air cargo network. The White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, formed after the crash of TWA Flight and commonly referred to as the Gore Commission, urged adoption of the recommendations of the Baseline Working Group regarding the profiling of "known" and "unknown" shippers.
TSA has continued to rely on known shipper programs as a principal means for pre-screening air cargo. In May , TSA issued a final rule establishing an industry-wide known shipper database for vetting all shipments placed on passenger aircraft. This applies to inbound international flights as well as domestic flights.
Under the framework of a risk-based strategy for cargo security, industry has specifically recommended the increased use of canine explosives detection teams; enhanced supply chain security; enhanced targeting of shipments based on CBP experience with the Automated Targeting System ATS ; expanded use of explosive trace detection technology for targeted screening; and accelerated research and development of technologies that can more efficiently inspect elevated-risk cargo. Under CBP's "advance manifest rule," 38 carriers operating inbound international flights must forward cargo manifest information to CBP four hours prior to arrival in the United States.
The four-hour requirement is relevant in carrying out CBP's mission of screening items as they enter the United States, but may be inadequate for use in targeting shipments from an aviation security standpoint. In many cases, aircraft may have departed for the United States before CBP receives the manifest information and analyzes it using ATS to identify high-risk cargo.
This concern does not apply to flights originating in Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, for which CBP requires the manifest information before departure. The order affects all U. The October attempted bombing incidents raised questions about the adequacy of current manifest screening requirements and targeting procedures for detecting potential threats to U. Congress may want to seek additional information and input regarding whether earlier transmittal of manifest information could improve targeting capabilities aimed at identifying high risk cargo and, if so, what impacts such requirements may have on international air cargo shipments.
Following the October incidents, TSA applied additional screening measures to inbound international air cargo assessed to be high risk. For example, cash payment of shipping costs may be considered an indicator of risk in certain markets, although this characteristic, by itself, may not raise suspicion in all cases. In October , the ACAS pilot program was formalized and expanded, 42 and has been extended as a voluntary pilot program several times since.
Under the ACAS pilot project, freight forwarders and airlines voluntarily submit key data elements of cargo manifests before departure, which is earlier than the current regulatory requirement of four hours prior to arrival in the United States. Based on results of the pilot program, CBP and TSA seek to identify the appropriate data elements and time frame for receiving data in order to conduct effecting targeting.
In July , CBP further extended the pilot program for an additional year. While the ultimate objective is to develop uniform industry-wide regulation for advance cargo screening, slow progress toward this goal has raised questions over the adequacy of resources devoted to this effort, despite favorable views of the concept and active industry participation. In , the Aviation Security Advisory Committee expressed concern that while the pilot program had been ongoing for five years, it had not yet been fully tested and TSA had not devoted adequate staffing and resources to the project.
While TSA can require that inbound air cargo shipments and procedures at last point of departure airports meet all U. One way to address security risks in those locations is to adopt and enforce international standards requiring adherence to best practices. International efforts to improve air cargo security have focused on providing more robust and timelier information about shipments to allow security agencies to assess risk.
Development and harmonization of security data standards could increase the usefulness of initiatives such as the ACAS program, which is currently voluntary but could be developed into a required regulatory standard. The logistics industry is actively seeking to improve supply chain quality management and better monitor and track shipments, and these initiatives can also have direct security benefits. Whereas the air cargo industry has favored risk-based approaches for both cargo planes and cargo placed aboard passenger aircraft, some policymakers have argued that more comprehensive screening of cargo is needed to make cargo security comparable to the screening of airline passengers and baggage.
The act specified screening methods acceptable in meeting this requirement, including X-ray systems, explosives detection systems, explosives trace detection, TSA-certified explosives detection canine teams, and physical searches conducted in conjunction with manifest verifications. Additional methods may be approved by TSA. However, the act provided that cargo documents and known shipper verification, by themselves, are not acceptable screening methods. The act, however, did not specify who is to conduct the screening.
TSA has interpreted the language to allow airlines, freight forwarders, or, in some cases, shippers, manufacturers, and third-party screening facilities to conduct screening at off-airport locations, so long as they can ensure the security of a shipment until it is loaded onto an aircraft. The extent to which air carriers and freight forwarders have been able to pass along these costs to shippers and consumers may be an issue of interest to Congress.
Mandatory screening requirements for cargo on passenger flights may place passenger airlines at a competitive disadvantage against all-cargo airlines, so long as all-cargo carriers face less stringent requirements. In addition, if security screening requirements discourage shipments on passenger flights, some routes may no longer be profitable for airlines.
TSA and industry experts concluded that the only viable means of meeting the screening requirements has been to conduct screening at the piece level at various points in the supply chain and implement a variety of measures to secure cargo after screening it at off-airport locations. Screening pallets and containers can be complex, potentially requiring that the shipments be broken down so that individual items can be examined.
CCSP is intended to minimize these logistical complexities by allowing screening to occur at factories, warehouses, third party logistics providers, and off-airport cargo consolidation facilities, so long as the operator of the facility tenders cargo to either an air carrier or a freight forwarder. The CCSP program is voluntary, but widespread industry participation reflects considerable perceived benefits.
According to TSA FY data, the current program size remains at approximately 1, cargo facilities. To participate in CCSP, employers must allow TSA to conduct security threat assessments to check the names of workers with access to air cargo against government terrorist watchlists.
The threat assessments are conducted upon initial employment at a CCSP facility or on-airport air cargo facility and every five years thereafter while employed as an air cargo worker. However, none of these devices is approved for the screening of palletized or containerized cargo. Procedures stipulate that screening must instead be done on individual cargo items since available technologies, especially explosives detection systems, can only accommodate objects slightly more than 3 feet wide and about 8 feet long, far too small for large cargo items, much less cargo containers and pallets.
The limitations of explosives detection systems in the air cargo environment have led to extensive reliance on explosives trace detection, particularly at airport screening locations, coupled with canine teams. Imaging systems are employed at seaports and border crossings to scrutinize entire trucks and multimodal containers. These systems, which use a variety of gamma-ray, x-ray, x-ray backscatter, and millimeter wave imaging technologies, are generally not considered suitable in the air cargo domain because they require intensive human observation to detect potential threats.
Moreover, they generally do not offer adequate image resolution or automated or assisted threat detection capabilities for identifying relatively small explosive devices capable of bringing down an airliner. Neutron beam technologies offer a potential solution, allowing automated explosives detection capabilities of containerized and palletized cargo.
The unit was touted as a potential means to automatically screen large containers and bulk cargo shipments for explosives, hazardous chemicals, radiological and nuclear materials, and other potential threats based on sub-atomic properties. In , the pilot program was suspended, reportedly for financial reasons, despite high detection rates and low false alarm rates across a wide range of threat types and container sizes. Absent a suitable technology for screening palletized and containerized cargo at airport facilities, the reliance on off-airport cargo screening under CCSP and the logistic demands of the air cargo industry pose unique challenges for maintaining security throughout the supply chain.
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Current efforts appear to be focused on expanding the size of a single box that can be screened using available technology and improving the throughput of this equipment. Historically, CT systems have had limited application in the air cargo environment because of their cost, large footprint, and limitations on the size of objects they can scan. Alternatively, technologies that rely on chemical analysis of explosive vapors using mass spectrometry may allow for more efficient and cost-effective screening of cargo shipments, but the technology is still being tested.
TSA has trained over canine explosives detection teams that local law enforcement agencies deploy at airports and other transportation facilities. Under cooperative agreements, TSA pays for the training, certification, and maintenance of the dogs and partially reimburses law enforcement agencies for handler salaries and other costs. In addition, TSA has about of its own multimodal canine teams that, among other duties, screen cargo at the 20 busiest airports. These teams focus on large bulk cargo configurations that cannot be efficiently screened using currently available technologies.
There is considerable policy interest in the certification and deployment of TSA-approved third-party explosives detection canine teams to screen air cargo. While many in industry support the approach, TSA had put this concept on hold after results from a pilot project failed to demonstrate reliable conformity to TSA performance standards. TSA is currently exploring options to reevaluate the concept. Both H. Air cargo operators and freight forwarders in the United States and at overseas locations that handle U.
Broadly, these programs include access control measures, site surveillance and physical security, mandatory background checks and security threat assessments of air cargo workers, and employee security training and awareness:. Various supply chain security measures provide options for preventing and detecting tampering and maintaining the integrity of cargo shipments.
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These measures include tamper-evident and tamper-resistant packaging, cargo tracking technologies, and identifiers to designate screened cargo. A number of methods exist for sealing cargo shipments and cargo containers to prevent tampering. Relatively low-cost solutions such as tamper-evident tapes that provide visual indications of tampering can be utilized in combination with facilities and transit security measures as an additional security layer to deter the introduction of explosives into air cargo shipments.
Such measures are important components of TSA's Certified Cargo Screening Program, which allows goods to be screened at off airport locations and therefore necessitates safeguards to ensure the integrity of items between the time they are screened and the time they are loaded aboard an aircraft. At cargo handling facilities, tamper-evident seals and locks can be utilized on cargo containers to prevent theft and the introduction of contraband or threat objects.
Electronic seals may serve as an additional deterrent by providing more immediate detection of tampering. Electronic seals typically have alarms that transmit a signal when tampered with. The air cargo industry, particularly the express package sector, relies on tracking technologies such as the global positioning system GPS and radio-frequency identification to process, sort, and track shipments. The technology also has potential security applications.
Tracking technologies could identify suspicious origins or unexplained delays or detours in transit. Bar code scanning and similar practices are commonly used to log shipments when they enter and depart various nodes in the supply chain. This tracking is commonly integrated into logistics management tools to track and route shipments, but does have limitations because it does not allow for continuous or passive tracking capabilities.
Often RFID technology is used for tracking items at a facility such as a warehouse or sorting facility, whereas GPS is well suited for tracking items in transit or vehicles utilized to move goods through the supply chain. These same technologies can additionally provide a security benefit by detecting anomalies in the shipping process that could raise security concerns and indicate a need for risk-based screening.
TSA relies primarily on a system of identifiers to designate that a piece of cargo has been properly screened and is eligible for shipment on passenger aircraft. TSA approves a variety of stickers, stamps, and tags to be used as screened cargo identifiers.
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However, given the highly diverse and geographically distributed nature of the supply chain, it may be difficult to detect falsified or counterfeit stamps beyond the point of screening. Additional safeguards, such as indicating screened status in shipping databases and allowing access to details about screened status to authorized individuals through bar code scanning of packages, could provide additional means to validate the status and ensure the integrity of security-screened shipments. In-flight air cargo security options address the primary perceived vulnerabilities of a potential hijacking of an all-cargo flight or the bombing of a passenger aircraft using an explosive device carried in a cargo shipment.
The recent 37th Session of the ICAO Assembly unanimously adopted a Declaration which identified a number of areas where States committed to working together, in cooperation with the industry, on security issues. These include air cargo security, screening technologies to detect prohibited articles, strengthening international standards, improving security information-sharing and providing capacity-building assistance to States in need. A diplomatic conference, held in Beijing in September under the auspices of ICAO, adopted two international air law instruments for the suppression of unlawful acts relating to civil aviation.
The two treaties further criminalize the act of using civil aircraft as a weapon, and of using dangerous materials to attack aircraft or other targets on the ground.
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They also provide for the unlawful transport of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, and their related material, to be punishable. Making a threat against civil aviation may also trigger criminal liability. Share this page :. The real difficulty lies in implementing common global security standards across the large, complex organisational structures found in large cargo handlers.
Providing such a universal level of technological maturity and adoption of multiple regulations is a tough job. This is especially true in a low-margin business, when it can be hard to justify additional capital or operating expenditure to achieve a standard that goes beyond the minimum regulatory requirements. But this investment does pay off and can unlock cost savings through operational efficiencies. It is not just a matter of capital investment though. When working to improve security, companies need to remember that their people remain their biggest opportunity — and also their greatest vulnerability.
This can be through individual susceptibility to defection or corruption, but more often lies in failures to follow procedures correctly, or not being properly trained to support compliance.
Most operators are beginning to take action in this area, mainly because they recognise the need to respond to stricter regulatory requirements. Some progressive companies are even taking a more proactive approach, such as when Worldwide Flight Services WFS focused on developing a dedicated culture change programme, utilising the latest available surveillance and scanning techniques, and the digitalisation of cargo security records. The ground handler was clear that positioning security in its operations at the highest global standards would help make it stand out from the competition.
At the heart of good security is the recognition that it is a critical and evolving issue. The evidence is clear that the threat posed to the air cargo sector from terrorists, smugglers and other criminals is mounting, and that mitigating action needs to be urgently taken.