Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Association of European Airlines calls on US to accept European air cargo security measures

This past January at the World Economic Forum, the US Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security presented a “National Strategy for Supply Chain Security” signed by President Barack Obama. The report enlists the cooperation of other nations and industry leaders to come together and submit thoughts and recommendations on such matters as methods to share information, streamline processes and synchronize standards and procedures. The strategy applies to all cargo goods entering the US and also US action to strengthen the security provided in other countries.

This presentation came after the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) deadline of Dec. 31, 2011 to screen 100% all cargo from US-bound passenger aircraft was put on hold. No explanation was given for the delay but according to people within TSA, the mandate is expected to be in operation by December of this year. Currently the TSA believes 80% to 90% of all cargo on US-bound passenger planes is screened.

Perhaps among the reasons for the 100% cargo screening delay was the shift in strategy towards a risk-based intelligence-driven methodology for overall security efforts. This may also have been one of the main drivers for the “National Strategy for Supply Chain Security” presentation.

In keeping with the presentation’s recommendations, the US has finalized cargo security agreements with Finland, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and the UK.  Although the Association of European Airlines Association (AEA) positively acknowledged these individual country agreements, the secretary general of the AEA said that these should be seen as a “concrete foundation towards a final goal of a single comprehensive deal between the US and EU as a whole.” The secretary general continues, “We are calling on US regulators to accept Europe’s robust security standards as equal to their own. This will simplify the processes for airlines and remove unnecessary duplication. Once we have a critical build-up of US approvals, an EU-wide deal will be a simple next step.”

Currently, European airlines have to abide by European air cargo security rules as well as US rules once the airlines enter US territory. It would indeed be practical, if it is not being done already, for the US to establish a dialog with the AEA to compare best practices and then follow the association’s advice and then seek an EU-wide deal rather to seek agreements with individual EU members.