Cargo security is indivisible; this was general consensus among the panelists discussing this sensitive topic at the sixth security conference held by Lufthansa Cargo last week in Frankfurt. They unanimously called for a more efficient screening process. But as is often the case the devil lies in the details.
ACC3 was the by far most often heard acronym at the day-long Lufthansa event. It stands for ‘air cargo or mail carrier operating into the E.U. from a third country airport.’ This scheme is supposed to ensure a uniform security level through validation of non-European airports in a closed process chain. These airports predominantly encompass places deemed in some way to be risky due to lax or even inadequate monitoring processes in air cargo such as Luanda, Lagos and others in Africa, but also some Latin American or Asian airports, experts state.
Security without compromise
From July on, carriers uplifting shipments at any of those doubtful airports standing on the black list of EU watchdogs can only load cargo on board their aircraft if their local stations have been validated by independent security inspectors.
The underlying principle is easy and in full compliance with IATA regulations, TSA or EU security demands: Controlling cargo at the shipment’s points of origin is the most efficient and secure means to ensure safe international transport of air cargo. “This way we reduce complexity and prevent security becoming a patchwork,” stated panelist Ingo Rahn, DHL GF’s Executive VP Global Airfreight.
His view was strongly supported by LH Cargo’s Executive Board Member Operations Karl-Rudolf Rupprecht together with the carrier’s Head of Security and Environmental Management, Harald Zielinski. Rupprecht assured that his airline is well prepared for implementing ACC3 on 1 July and that the process of validating non-EU stations is well in progress.
Harald’s poison list
Herr Zielinski referred to a risk map, encompassing all those airports that are considered being critical for picking up cargo. “If there are the slightest doubts that security checks are not performed as mandated we refrain from doing biz there,” Harald assured.
His U.S. colleague Jim LoBello said that auditing Lufthansa Cargo’s Latin American stations from A to Z needs at least two days for each. “We leave no stone unturned to make sure our local cargo operation is performed according to the ACC3 scheme.” Jim refrained from mentioning any so called black sheep.
What Rupprecht, Rahn, Zielinski, LoBello, and other participants of the LH event clearly rejected are additional security checks of shipments along the supply chain once the goods have been cleared at the – validated – point of origin. Exclaimed Rupprecht: “The demand for additional transfer screening is a step backwards.” Instead, every single cargo shipment needs to be secured reliably before loaded on board an aircraft for the very first time.” The manager went on to say: “Transfer screening only causes higher costs and longer transit times, without increasing security.” Herr Zielinski stressed that his airline cannot frequently waist time for having shipments screened twice or thrice after their initial controls at the airport of departure.
Hammerl acts as agent provocateur
It was the Director of Germany’s Federal Police Franz-Josef Hammerl who questioned this assertion. He recalled the two parcel bombs sent from Yemen to the U.S. in November 2010 that explosive experts managed to defuse after the devices were intercepted in the UK and Dubai respectively. “These two bombs demonstrated the necessity of re-scanning transit cargo if necessary by means of on-the-spot checks, including sample checks,” maintained the Police Chief.
It looks like this subject remains a very controversial issue that needs further debate among all participants, not only at national but EU level to reach a mutually agreed solution.
RAS Cargo – here permitted, there prohibited
This leads to another open point tabled at the LH security conference – the divergent safety practices exercised by the EU member states. For example, RAS Cargo is common standard in the Netherlands, the UK, and France, but still forbidden in Germany and some other member states.
This is one pressing issue among others that urgently has to be harmonized, demanded Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the renowned Munich Security Conference, in his keynote speech and consecutive statements.
RAS Cargo stands for ‘remote air sampling for canine olfaction’, which in practice means that air samples from within a cargo truck are brought to caged sniffer dogs at some nearby facility that are trained to detect explosives when scenting the air probe. This technique was developed for fast screening masses of dense cargo to speed up the flows, combining a high detection rate with cost effectiveness.
Asked by CargoForwarder Global why RAS Cargo has not yet been authorized by the German aviation authority LBA their Head of Department for Aviation Security Birgit Loga’s words were: “Because so far nobody has applied for implementing RAS Cargo.” Once this was stated, a spokesperson of Rhine-Main operator Fraport stood up and said: “We herewith officially apply for getting RAS Cargo licensed by the LBA.”
If so, it’s only a small step, but an important one to further harmonize air freight security among the 28 EU member states.