Beefing up air cargo security

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Safety remains the air cargo industry’s top priority. Recent concerns over lithium batteries transported as air cargo have reinforced the need for more communication over the rules for shipping such items. What was an afterthought to getting goods to the right place at the right time is now a crucial aspect of supply chain around the globe.  Surya Kannoth   “Cargo pilots deliver goods to all corners of the globe in all kinds of weather and operating conditions. By bringing together experienced stakeholders from throughout the industry, collectively, we can identify areas of all-cargo operations where safety and security improvements can and should be made.” These were the opening remarks by Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) president Capt. Tim Canoll at the recently concluded Air Cargo Symposium titled, ‘Outside the box: Better ideas for air cargo safety and security.’ The nature of threat has not changed over the past few years. The worldwide situation when it comes to security for air cargo is still very tense. Vulnerable to terror attacks, there is an increased need for air cargo security and screening systems. For instance, in 2010, two packages shipped from Yemen to Chicago were discovered to contain explosive materials. Also, terrorist attacks have increased manifold worldwide. Therefore, air cargo requires efficient and advanced cargo screening systems to handle the increasing volume, and provide enhanced security measures. “A major aspect on how to tackle this challenge is a risk-based approach. In order to be able to fully implement this as an airline, it is crucial that an independent group of specialists works on the implementation of global views and standards on defining security risks, since there is no general understanding right now,” believes Harald Zielinski, chief security officer, Lufthansa Cargo. The industry veteran added that the German carrier is constantly working on being a benchmark for the industry concerning aviation security. Therefore, it is crucial to stay ahead of possible threats and enforce actions before incidents occur. To achieve this goal the Lufthansa Cargo Security Department is in constant discussion with authorities and associations worldwide. For Air Canada Cargo, being active in the regulatory arena ensures preparedness with regards to changes in requirements, and means fewer disruptions for customers, according to Barb Johnston, Manager of Operational Programmes for Air Canada Cargo. “In addition, we continue to encourage and support the entire supply chain to take responsibility for managing their link in the secure supply chain. These actions alleviate bottlenecks and increase overall security, achieving the desired end results, to keep cargo moving as quickly and as safely as possible,” she added. “The ever changing landscape means we can never rest as an industry and are constantly striving to keep safety and security programmes, policies, procedures and regulations updated and relevant. We strongly advocate a multi-layered approach to security as we need to be vigilant on all fronts,” asserts Glyn Hughes, global head of cargo at IATA. Elaborating on International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) role in air cargo security, the organisation’s spokesperson said, “ICAO, and national governments, fully recognise the importance of air cargo to the global economy, 35 percent of world trade by value. It is vital that industry partners help regulators to avoid unintended consequences of any proposed new rules, particularly if these might involve unnecessary costs or undue disruption of the supply chain.” With safety and security as aviation’s key priorities, industry body IATA welcomes and values the leadership shown by ICAO in making the skies safer and more secure. “ICAO has consistently shown they value input from the industry and IATA has a dedicated aviation security team who work with the ICAO sub groups to develop harmonised and fit for purpose regulations,” said Hughes. On the cargo safety side, much attention has been placed recently on lithium batteries, particularly post the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. An interim report by the Malaysian government on the disappearance of Malaysian carrier MH370 revealed a large shipment of lithium ion batteries was being carried by the Boeing 777. IATA has dedicated experts who provide industry input into the ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel, which has global oversight of this issue. Regulations are constantly being reviewed and recent changes adopted include enhancements to packing requirements, reductions in the state of charge of tendered lithium ion batteries and guidance to carriers about performing safety risk assessments. Specifically in relation to lithium battery safety, the main challenge continues to be combating the misdeclared lithium battery shipments, which also tend to be shipments which may not have been manufactured to the defined global standards. “This is why we are calling on governments to play a stronger role in oversight and control of what is manufactured to address the problem before it reaches the supply chain,” explains Hughes. Harmonising and defining of standards for cargo screening technology worldwide is of utmost importance. Therefore, investments should be done in projects that are orientated to this goal, believe industry players. This should happen on the highest necessary level as there is still room for improvement. According to Lufthansa Cargo’s Harald Zielinski, technologies are the biggest deficit in air cargo security, because there has not been major development in screening technology. In Germany, the latest development was the acceptance of EDD (explosive detection dogs) as screening technology. In the future, more improvement in this field is needed. Leading players Security screening specialists Rapiscan, Smiths Detection and Morpho Detection are some of the leading suppliers of air cargo screening equipment for airlines, airports, shippers and forwarders. In addition to screening machines, Rapiscan offers software to automate screening, workflow processes and reports to government. London-based manufacturer of screening equipment Smiths Detection made a minor improvement to its Hi-Scan units by moving the X-ray generator from the top of the machine to a spot to the side, giving the operators a better horizontal view of each pallet or container that passes through, producing a magnified image for the operator. French manufacturer Morpho Detection also manufactures a popular palletized cargo X-ray screener, the HRX 1800, which can accommodate pallets measuring 180 x 180 cm. At Morpho, one recent innovation is the integration of electronic trace detection (ETD), which searches for the presence of minute particles of explosive residue, into the company’s X-ray machines and into the cargo platform. Way ahead for aviation security “I believe there’s never going to be a day when our aviation system is safe ‘enough’. There’s always more we can do. In fact, the Commercial Aviation Safety Team has set another ambitious goal to further reduce the risk of fatal accidents by an additional 50 percent by 2025. If we’re going to accomplish this goal, government and industry must continue to work together,” said Michael Huerta, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) during his address at the ALPA’s Air Cargo Symposium. “Governments should, where appropriate, seek to accelerate mutual recognition of robust security programmes to allow efficient solutions to be implemented and harmonised,” states IATA’s Hughes. Digitalisation of data needs to be accelerated to a much greater degree, which will also bring about quality and reliability enhancements. In his view, dialogue, between regulators and industry, between regulators and regulators, and between industry and industry is the best way forward for cargo security. “We all own the responsibility to make the skies as safe and as secure as they can be and therefore can all play our part in delivering that outcome.” Meanwhile, Lufthansa Cargo’s Zielinski recommends improvement on screening technology, avoiding of different security standards within the EU and worldwide harmonisation of security standards. Many in the industry support regulatory alignment, and believe regulators need to focus on making security requirements similar around the globe to facilitate ease of adoption and compliance. “It is for the same reason that I would instead encourage more mutual recognition agreements of every country’s measures. Ease of adoption and compliance could equate to ease of circumvention. In addition, what works or is necessary in one country does not exactly mean it will work or be effective in another,” concludes Air Canada Cargo’s Johnston.
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