US government continues Air Cargo Advance Screening pilot program

This week marked the 12th anniversary of terrorist attacks on US soil. Since then, the US government has undertaken numerous security initiatives including the safe transport of cargo on all modes of transport. Of particular concern is the desire to secure borders for all international cargo entering the country or transiting through it.

For example, radiation portal monitors and other radiation detection technologies have been implemented at seaports, land border ports, and mail facilities. These systems now scan 100% of all containerized cargo and personal vehicles arriving in the US through land ports of entry, as well as over 99% of arriving sea containers.

Perhaps one of the more controversial moves undertaken was the requirement of all inbound international air cargo to be screened prior to entering the US. While the US Department of Homeland Security works with international counterparts to devise an agreeable solution, the Customs Border and Patrol (CBP) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) implemented a voluntary pilot program, Air Cargo Advance Screening (ACAS), in which members of the air cargo community send and receive advance security filing data for their air cargo – similar to what is being done among ocean vessels prior to entering a US port.

ACAS is designed to help identify cargo shipments inbound to US and transiting through the country that may be high risk and require additional physical screening.

ACAS was implemented in 2010 in which four express consignment air courier companies volunteered to provide the CBP with data. Since then, three passenger carriers, one-all cargo carrier and one freight forwarder have joined the pilot when it officially launched in October 2012. At that time, the CBP expanded the program seeking additional volunteers for the pilot to run through April 2013. In April 2013, the pilot was extended again as the CBP and TSA expand the program to additional volunteers.

Perhaps one of the drawbacks to the program is the fact that pilot participants are responsible for all costs. According to the CBP, these costs can vary based on participants’ pre-existing infrastructure. Costs may include carrier communication requirements such as submission and receipt of data and the cost of implementing the necessary screening protocols.

The time period of the pilot has yet to be determined. The CBP and TSA state that when sufficient pilot analysis and evaluation has been conducted, a mandate will be implemented requiring passenger and all-cargo carriers to submit data before cargo is loaded onto aircraft for all international shipments either destined for or transiting through the US.

The results of 9/11 caused the US to take a serious look at its security processes at sea ports, border entry points and airports. While the US government has seen success in its implementations, it has proven costly for many transport providers who have been required to add additional manpower, scanning equipment, upgrade IT systems etc. to be in compliance. As a result, much of these additional costs end up being passed down to customers in varying forms of “surcharges”.

This content was originally published in Ti’s regional newsletter for North and South America. To add this free, weekly newsletter to your subscription please click here.