AMERICA: 100 percent cargo screening debated

US Congress pressure to increasesecurity screening of belly cargo hold freight on passenger flights from 30to 100 percent on all US flights willresult in budget cuts to other securitymeasures and hit airline revenues, reportssaid. Democrats want 100 percent screeningof freight for explosives and otherthreats within three years, at an estimatedcost of US$600 per year to […]


US Congress pressure to increasesecurity screening of belly cargo hold freight on passenger flights from 30to 100 percent on all US flights willresult in budget cuts to other securitymeasures and hit airline revenues, reportssaid.

Democrats want 100 percent screeningof freight for explosives and otherthreats within three years, at an estimatedcost of US$600 per year to thefederal government. Passenger baggageis already 100 percent screened.

Representative Edward Markeysaid freight screening should includeequipment, technology, proceduresand personnel to provide a level ofsecurity equivalent to checked baggagescreening.

But Transportation Security Administrationofficials said existing securitymeasures for air freight were sufficientand the high cost of inspecting all aircargo would result in security cuts elsewherewhich could lead to lower levelsof safety overall.

About 22 percent of US domestic aircargo is carried on passenger aircraft,or about 2.8 million tons a year, producing$4.7 billion a year in revenuefor the airlines.

The existing system applies securityaround cargo consignments fromthe moment they leave the factory bykeeping a record of who is sending thepackage and by running backgroundchecks on the freight forwarder andair cargo employees who have accessto shipments.

TSA officials said when cargo isairlifted the cargo owner has noidea whether the freight will be carriedon board passenger or freighteraircraft.

– John Spiers