Governments should wait to adopt further rules about the submission of advance data for air cargo security until ongoing pilot tests can be completed and harmonized global standards are agreed upon, Douglas Brittin, the secretary of The International Air Cargo Association, said in a speech to technical experts gathered at a World Customs Organization security conference in Brussels.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is in the midst of its three-year Air Cargo Advanced Screening pilot under which all-cargo carriers and freight forwarders submit shipment information prior to aircraft departure to allow automated data analysis for security threats. The European Union and Canada have since launched similar trials, and the various authorities are expected to share their findings in hopes of agreeing on uniform rules.
"We recommend that all regulatory parties coordinate this process through the WCO and that they consult more closely with the industry before they move forward on establishing regulations," Britten said, according to a TIACA news release.
A similar process should be followed to establish common procedures for cargo inspection after the analysis is completed, he added.
Border security agencies must still determine the best data sets, data transmission methods, software and processes for notifying industry whether or not to proceed with loading a shipment before rules can be properly established, Brittin told the delegates.
Other challenges include the lack of compatibility between many air carrier and forwarder IT systems, inaccurate or incomplete manifest information, wide variations in the timing of available data, different risk-management approaches among customs and homeland security regulators in many nations, and limited testing of forwarder capabilities, especially outside of the United States, he said.
"Real rule sets are not yet tested, and it is essential to determine cost effort and capability," Brittin said. Inspection protocols, even among countries such as the United States, European Union, Canada and Japan that have mutual recognition agreements, are not uniform, and not enough thought has gone into how electronic airway bills and trusted shipper information would link to an advance air cargo screening regime, he said.
"Will customs regimes impose penalties on advance filings and, if so, against whom? Without common customs and security regulatory process, cargo transiting or transferring at a gateway may be required to be located, off-loaded and screened — and the shipment may be only one piece in a ULD container. Carriers may be required to submit the same or similar data to multiple customs agencies, based on routing," Brittin said.
He urged regulators to work with the industry to ensure data elements, targeting, messaging, inspection and response protocols are all standardized.
Brittin, until mid-2013, was in charge of air cargo security at the U.S. Transportation Security Administration and helped implement the 100-percent screening mandate for cargo on passenger planes.