Fasten your seatbelts and prepare your cargo for takeoff. On Aug. 1, the Cargo Screening Mandate goes into effect, requiring all cargo transported on passenger aircraft to be screened. This mandate aims to ensure the security of the air cargo supply chain and make it safer to transport packages and mail on passenger aircrafts.
President George W. Bush signed the 9/11 Commission Act on Aug. 3, 2007, requiring the TSA to establish a system to screen 100% of cargo transported on passenger aircraft with a level of security commensurate to that of passenger baggage. Today, 75% of all cargo transported on passenger aircraft is screened, which is close to 19 million lbs. per day.
Prior to May 2010, 50% of all cargo transported on passenger aircraft was screened. When the mandate goes into effect in August, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) estimates that about 25 million lbs. of cargo will need to be screened per day.
As a result, merchants who have catalogs, goods and other materials screened at their local airport, are likely to experience significant delays, cargo backlogs and transit time increases.
Under the screening requirements, pallets must be broken down and each piece screened using TSA-approved methods. These include physical search, advanced technology checkpoint x-ray, explosives trace detection, and decompression chambers. Shipments tendered on skids, which often arrive shrink-wrapped, must also be taken apart so individual pieces can be scanned.
Merchants that deal in sensitive cargo, including high-tech products, perishable goods, pharmaceuticals and fine art, may require even more specific screening processes and procedures.
Recognizing early on that screening all cargo at the piece level at a single point in the supply chain is not sufficient, the TSA is providing a more streamlined alternative. The TSA’s Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP) allows federally regulated facilities to screen air cargo in advance.
These sites, which are trusted, vetted and audited by TSA officials, must adhere to increased TSA-directed security standards. A chain of custody is established and maintained throughout the supply chain by using stringent chain-of-custody methods. Cargo processed by these certified sites can then bypass screening at the airport.
To qualify for the CCSP, facilities must first invest in the necessary technologies and procedures including facility screening, personnel security, employee training, screening processes and chain of custody. TSA officials audit and validate operations across a number of prerequisites.
What should you be doing? Prepare now for the mandate if you haven’t already started to. These four steps can help.
1) Close any knowledge gaps. Learning and following the cargo screening mandate and its specific requirements is one of the most important steps. You can find key information at www.safetyact.gov and www.tsa.gov.
2) Evaluate your international shipping program, postal and carrier expenses. Make sure you consider what impact screening will have on your international shipments, including delivery dates. Transit time is key to the movement of packages and mail.
3) Conduct a security impact analysis. Evaluate how and when your international packages and mail are being screened today and what your plans are in 2010 to meet the mandate. If you are working with a mail services provider, ask about what it’s doing and the company’s plans to work towards the deadline.
4) Work with a Certified Cargo Screening facility to screen your packages and mail. A list of Certified Cargo Screening facilities and their locations is available on the TSA’s Website at: http://www.tsa.gov/assets/pdf/cert_locations_b.pdf.
Robert DiVincenzo is president, international services, for mailing software, hardware and services provider Pitney Bowes.