Saturday, August 21, 2010

Air Freight Cargo Screening Proceeds With Limited Success

TSA Trying to Cover All Eventualities
Shipping News Feature

US – Despite the almost audible sigh of relief emitted by those associated with the imposition of mandatory screening for all air freighted cargo on 1st August, the relative success of the scheme so far should be viewed in context. By their own admission the U.S. Transportation Security Administration executive admit that, despite their certified cargo screening programme there is, as yet, no technology suitable for screening containerised cargo despite some worthwhile products on the market and hundreds of thousands of pounds invested in new robot technology.

As we indicated in our June review of the freight screening process it will be largely left to individual forwarders, and in the case of freight carried on passenger aircraft, airlines, to screen the cargo and ensure security is considered adequate by the authorities. The TSA has announced satisfaction with the scheme so far and its efforts should be applauded but, by its own admission the 100% success rate it claims is for domestic and import cargo. This means international freight not considered as high risk is still comparatively unguarded.

TSA Director and ex FBI Deputy Director John Pistole has taken over responsibility from Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano the daunting task of international cargo screening. Compared with the 920 screening centres which the TSA have approved in the US, the job of ensuring all incoming cargo is checked thoroughly at the foreign point of departure may prove infinitely more difficult.

There are other factors which, despite the hype, mean that full security for freight is an almost impossible dream. Last years piece highlighted some of the problems of relying on the freight community to police itself and Pistole will doubtless be under pressure to ensure the safety of commuters by all transport methods and inevitably the public perceive passenger flights and trains as more important than freight aircraft and shipping containers, despite the potential for even greater dangers.