How Secure is RASCO?

The discussion on cargo security in Europe is getting an unexpected new twist. Initiator is the United Kingdom’s Department for Transport (DfT) that prohibited screening of all air freight by RASCO sniffer dogs. Two British service providers that had been allowed the so called Remote Air Sampling for Canine Olfaction method have been advised by the authority to stop the controls with immediate effect.

Explosives, narcotics etc, are identified from closed volumes, through air drawing and are then captured on a specially designed filter.  /  source: DiagNose
Explosives, narcotics etc, are identified from closed volumes, through air drawing and are then captured on a specially designed filter. / source: DiagNose

Reasons why the DfT prohibited – at least temporarily – the RASCO regime were not made public by the authority. However, in a report published by the online platform The Loadstar sources are quoted claiming that the trained explosive dogs failed to hit targets in new RASCO tests set by the British regulator. 


For the service providers the ban is a shock. From one hundred back to zero - no big surprise that the firms affected from the DfT decree reacted infuriated. According to The Loadstar they not only fear losses of business and job cuts but – much worse for the British cargo industry – the migration of masses of trucked air freight from London and other UK airports to Amsterdam or Paris CDG.
If so, new cross-border cargo tourism might be the result.


This, because the regulators in both France and the Netherlands continue allowing securing entire truck loads by presenting air probes from within a truck or container to remote located sniffer dogs. In case they don’t bark or react in other expressive ways the entire load is declared to be secure.
This doing contrasts practices adopted by most EU countries, where part of the security architecture are leashed dogs to detect any hidden explosives or drugs on the spot, either within warehouses or vehicles.

The filter is then presented for analysis and detection by specially and highly trained dogs  /  source: ICTS Europe
The filter is then presented for analysis and detection by specially and highly trained dogs / source: ICTS Europe

A new ball game
“Now we sure have a new Europe-wide security debate in air freight,” reacted Lufthansa Cargo’s Head of Security and Environment, Harald Zielinski, when approached by CargoForwarder Global. Although the method is basically tolerated by the EU Commission and laid in the hands of national regulators for approval, it has never undergone official tests, Harald pointed out. He went on to say: “Since long we believe that this system is deficient.” To him the decision now taken by the DfT clearly demonstrates the dubiety and basic shortcomings of RASCO. “Therefore, we never asked our regulator for any official allowance.”
Now it’s the EU Commission’s task to evaluate this particular screening method and to dispel any doubts or – in case this fails – to prohibit the use of remote caged explosive dogs for securing air freight EU-wide. States Harald: “The ball is in the Commission’s court.”


Heiner Siegmund

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