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The last in a series of extracts from Aviation Logistics, a new book by Michael Sales and Stan Wraight in conjunction with TIACA, looks at the issue of security with TIACA’s Doug Brittin

Total screening of all air cargo is a daunting task, and one which is neither attainable nor necessary. The reasons reflect the challenges of the air cargo supply chain itself, the diverse customers it serves, and the diverse models of how they are served.

Certainly, it has been proven that “100%” can be attained in limited circumstances. Specifically, the US mandate for 100% screening of cargo on passenger aircraft within, out of and into the US was a legislative requirement that had to be met. Within the US, the ability to allow forwarders and even some shippers to screen cargo was attained at a significant cost, one which was borne by industry itself. But it was also accomplished and enabled by an increase of over 400% in the number of TSA cargo inspectors to ensure compliance. The ability to fund that level of oversight does not exist in too many markets. For inbound US cargo, the mandate was met through the adoption of acceptance of a “certified” validation that the non-US measures were deemed commensurate (by TSA) with US programs.

Of course, this only takes into account the cargo transported on passenger aircraft. The overall volume carried on freighters (shipments) far surpasses that which is transported in passenger bellies. Thus, while it might be relatively easy screen a large shipment through the certified cargo program (supply chain screening) as is allowed in the US, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to physically screen the millions of small packages transported daily by express carriers. The speed with which they move also makes effective screening difficult. It certainly can be done, but only at the cost of lowering the speed with which such packages move. This is not something which is appealing to consumers, who demand instant gratification in today’s “e-commerce” world. The latter is further complicated by the dramatic increase in packages moving via the postal stream, which still ends up on passenger or freighter aircraft.

However, 100% may not be necessary, and regulators are beginning to take an even more serious look at this. In essence, with the addition of more shipment information, (such as shipper, consignee and other information), tendered earlier in the transport process, regulators can use a risk-analysis format to determine which individual shipments may need a higher level of screening, while others may not need as close a look. Think in terms of automated passport analysis enabling “no fly” (or other) measures, or even TSA’s “Pre-Check” in the US. The concept behind pre-check is that a great deal of information is known already about the passenger (submitted earlier for vetting), and thus they are subjected to less stringent measures, while other passengers get the full inspection. Ultimately, this should enable the vast majority of passengers to move via pre-check, and the same equation would apply for cargo. The full impact of this is still to be determined, as these Advance Data regimes (ACAS in the US, PRECISE in the EU, and PACT in Canada), are still only in the pilot phase. What is certain, however, is that shipment data will need to be more accurate, timelier, and more complete, and the IT programming to connect all of this may well also lead to additional costs for industry

There is no doubt that the air cargo supply chain has invested millions of dollars into an already high priced avenue of transport. The infrastructural requirements to support increasing (and evolving) regulatory procedures, as well as the support requirements to physically manage the flow of cargo to satisfy various regulatory bodies, have expanded.

These costs include not only the expensive equipment, but also extensive and on-going management oversight, as well as significant and on-going training/re-training of employees. This applies not only to the screening process and equipment, but also toward managing the ever complex security programs issued by regulators (in some cases several inches thick!).

As an example, in the IT arena, industry must now also worry about providing things such as advance data for regulatory targeting analysis. Additionally, in many cases, we must spend valuable IT time compiling statistical reports for regulators’ compliance use. The challenge for industry is that in both cases, much of this still operates the way it did “back then”, using data sets and programs created in IT silos at each company. We must continue to look at how this can be managed more efficiently. Newer concepts such as shared cloud environments may be at least part of the answer, but at whose cost? And in many companies, it is probably still difficult to find IT managers who come out in favor of outsourcing their own jobs. The tendency to “program it internally” still survives, and as a result, connecting all of these proprietary systems 1:1 to numerous government  IT systems adds cost to both sides of the equation. Global regulatory bodies have the same challenge finding common data requirements and channels that might make it easier for the industry to operate on a shared platform.

Similarly, the costs and requirements for labor and valuable personnel resources have changed dramatically. To remain vigilant (and compliant ) now, companies globally have had to invest in additional personnel to support audit, paperwork and reporting requirements from multiple regulatory bodies – often covering the same types of information but in differing formats. The updated EU ACC3 requirements are but one example of the collateral costs this process entails. Simplifying and standardizing processes would go a long way toward cost reduction in these areas.To remain competitive and viable, industry must continue to explore ways to streamline and reduce these costs. The fact we have done so much already to add mandated security programs at our own cost, yet remain competitive, speaks well of the flexibility and adaptability of our industry.

Aviation Logistics will be published by Kogan Page in early 2015 and is aimed at students of logistics, airport and airline management as well as professionals within the logistics business worldwide

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