100% screening for freighters by end-2011?

The US Transport Security Administration (TSA) is eyeing the possibility of moving up the 100 per cent screening deadline for maindeck capacity from 2013 to end of this year to bring it in-line with the 100 per cent rule for belly cargo screening which itself was brought forward to end-2011. In an update on the […]


The US Transport Security Administration (TSA) is eyeing the possibility of moving up the 100 per cent screening deadline for maindeck capacity from 2013 to end of this year to bring it in-line with the 100 per cent rule for belly cargo screening which itself was brought forward to end-2011. In an update on the cargo security environment, FAPAA’s security advisor, David Fielder who said the current situation is one of “flux and rapid change” said he understands the TSA is seriously considering the fast-tracked screening deadline which would mean all air cargo globally going into the US would have to be screened. “They had wanted to do all-cargo by 2013, but there is a strong thrust to bring that forward to 2011,” said Fielder. “Personally I don’t think that will ever happen this year. In two years time? Maybe.” Fielder, who sits on a number of global security bodies, said the TSA does appear to realise that it can never reach the 100 per cent goal without opting for off – site screening. Freighter volumes are clearly substantially bigger than even the 25 tonnes of belly cargo you might find on a passenger B777. He cites the example of Hong Kong where nearly 95 per cent of air cargo is on built-up pallets (BUP) – over 4.5 million tonnes of it – and to do screening at the airport would mean handling one BUP roughly every 30 seconds. “Th is is just not possible, you have to move it upstream,” he says. “In the US you have the independent air cargo screening which is upstream – and my understanding is that it is working quite well.” Th is is largely accomplished using explosive trace detection (ETD) equipment because the requirement for X-rays scanning requires substantial infrastructure set-up, he says. “If that is recognised around the world than there is a chance that this will come to 100 per cent screening. My personal view is that a good airport screening facility would encompass, if needed, both X-ray and ETD depending on the type of cargo.” X-ray machines are not good for big bulky cargo, but is useful for smaller homogeneous cargo that you can put through on a conveyor belt. ETD gives more flexibility for size, he says. But Fielder says unfortunately the Yemen bomb plot involving the ink cartridges packed wiThexplosives did go through ETD and wasn’t detected “and that has obviously raised alarms.” The result was a “knee-jerk reaction” by the TSA to reject ETD scanning in favour of X-ray scanning for cargo coming from abroad, although it is still acceptable domestically. “My question is, if ETD is acceptable in the US, why is not acceptable for outside the US – that seems to be a double standard,” observes Fielder. For Fielder the best approach is to take a good risk-based approach which he notes is the direction the world is moving towards. “If you take a risk based approach then you can put the right medium in to check the potential risk and then you probably won’t impede the cargo flow so much and you’ll get much quicker to a harmonisation. Don’t use a sledgehammer to crack a nut which is why I think the struggle is going on.”