Release Date:
Release ID: 855

Airforwarders Association Statement on Air Cargo Security Reports; Air Cargo is Secure, and Growing More Secure Every Year

Brandon Fried, the Executive Director of the Airforwarders Association, the industry voice of air freight forwarders, today released the Association's statement on the state of air cargo security in the United States today:

"Recent reports by various groups have rated 'cargo inspection' with a poor grade. This is being interpreted as indicting the entirety of air cargo security - which is simply false. Inspection is not the only way, nor is it the best metric, to assess air cargo security as a whole. Air cargo in the United States is secure, and continues to become more secure with each passing year.

The risk-based, layered approach to security developed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provides safety throughout the supply chain, from shipper to delivery. This system includes many checks on security as cargo is transported and is preferable to one-shot machine inspection, which can easily be circumvented. The system includes many new security components enacted in recent years and include:

-- Enhanced Known Shipper Program: The Known Shipper program is more than just a paper trail. This program was greatly expanded after September 11, when it became a mandatory program overseen by TSA. This program requires shippers to be fully vetted and tested prior to shipping packages on passenger planes. In this way, all packages are screened prior to shipment.

-- Random Inspection: TSA regularly has random inspections of cargo at airports across the nation. The randomness decreases the chances of an incident because there is no set model to follow to ensure a box will avoid inspection. The percentage of random inspections has been tripled since September 11.

-- Canine Inspection: TSA has dramatically expanded the number of canine detection units at airport cargo facilities. Canine detection teams are approved by TSA as a screening measure for cargo security, and currently have an extremely high effectiveness level in detecting explosives.

-- Improved Facility Security: New requirements have been set on security procedures at cargo loading facilities, including perimeter security, cameras and secure entrances. Forwarders are vigilant about the security of packages from receipt to delivery to the airport, and these requirements protect against security loopholes that would allow tampering in the warehouse.

-- Extensive Background Checks: The new TSA rule on air cargo requires all personnel that are in contact with cargo to undergo extensive background checks. This information is run against the terrorist watch list and other databases, further providing a layer of security for air cargo transportation.

-- Security Training and Certification: All freight forwarders have been subject to security training in the past, but the recent TSA rule requires a more robust plan and training for all those who handle air cargo in a forwarding facility. Identification of hazardous packages, suspicious packaging and identification of inventory are just a few of the training programs that aid in the early detection of packages that may be a problem.

-- Stronger Requirements for Indirect Air Carrier (IAC) Certification: IACs, or forwarders, have strict compliance requirements in order to be recertified, a process that must be completed every year in order to stay in business. TSA conducts regular checks throughout the year to ensure IACs are following Known Shipper guidelines, perimeter security guidelines and the security training requirements.

Air cargo is a critical piece of the American supply chain and the nation's economy. 'Just-in-time' cargo, which includes items such as medical supplies, machine parts, high-tech goods, and perishable items, must be transported across great distances in a short period of time, and air cargo is the only way to provide this service. This rapid, safe and efficient transportation of goods ensures that many American industries stay competitive and profitable in today's fast-paced global economy.

This time-sensitivity, combined with the professionalism and commitment to safety demonstrated throughout the forwarding and shipping communities is what has led industry experts to conclude that the layered approach is the best possible security program for American air cargo, rather than 100 percent inspection. The technology does not exist today, and certainly has not been certified, to carry out an inspection regime that could handle the massive volume of cargo moved daily in the United States. We are currently only at the beginning of a pilot program to test various technologies, which is not a position to begin issuing legislative mandates. An inspection regime would bring American commerce and the economy to a grinding halt, cost businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars, and cost taxpayers an estimated $1 billion dollars in just the first year."


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