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Controversial cargo screening program under debate

Counter Terror Expo : 21 November, 2008  (New Product)
Counter Terror Expo will see heated discussions on the US Certified Cargo Screening Program, an old idea re-dressed and with the buck passed up the supply chain
In late August the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced the introduction of the Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP), designed to fulfil the requirement of the 9/11 Commission Act that 100 percent of cargo carried on passenger aircraft must be screened by August 2010.

CCSP could have been the airline's worst nightmare coming to fruition and at a time when the industry is in the grip of an economic crisis the likes of which haven't been seen for a very long time. Instead it is a dressed up rehash of old ideas that shift the problem of how to secure belly hold cargo up the chain and on to the shoulders of shippers and forwarders.

TSA admits that CCSP is nothing more than a Known Shipper program disguised in fancy new words and with a brand new acronym. In fairness to the agency, it couldn't have done otherwise than to introduce CCSP in order to meet the mandated requirement laid down in the 9/11 Commission Act. However, the efficacy of the program and its impact on the supply chain is already in question and likely to be hotly debated at the forthcoming Counter Terror Expo, to be held in London, 10-11 February 2009.

Congress evidently wishes to see every item of belly hold cargo screened in some way, shape or form to ensure that explosive devices are not smuggled aboard passenger aircraft. This is a laudable but impractical desire. TSA has spent many millions of dollars attempting to identify technology suited to the task of screening bulk cargo and failed.

So what is the Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP) and how will it work?

CCSP is a voluntary programme that requires a shipper or forwarder to screen each and every item of cargo in a secure facility and deliver it as certified safe for onward transport to the airlines.

On paper the program looks fine, but dig beneath the surface and it appears to be a whole different ball game.

The question becomes what is and is not certified cargo.

TSA is seemingly adamant on the roll out of CCSP to schedule, but has yet to determine technology certified to the task of screening items of cargo to its satisfaction.

This lack of a qualified product list will undoubtedly stymie the CCSP Program until it is delivered.

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has observed that shippers and forwarders cannot be expected to potentially shell out tens of thousands of dollars per facility to meet a mandated deadline but eventually find that the hardware deployed is non compliant.

Given the current state of play, some industry insiders suggest final and system wide roll out of the CCSP Program may slip by 2-3 years.

Irrespective of the inescapable fact there is no recorded instance of a passenger aircraft being downed by an improvised explosive device concealed in belly hold cargo, the requirement to screen all such cargo will become the norm eventually. What impact this will have on shippers, forwarders and the airlines remains to seen.

Counter Terror Expo is the leading event of its kind in the European Region. Held in London and bringing together many of the principal counter terrorism specialists in the world in closed conference and specialist workshops, Counter Terrorism Expo aims to advance the debate on strategies to deter current and future terrorist threats.

Counter Terrorism Expo is to be held at the at Queen Elizabeth 11 Conference Centre, Westminster, London, 10-11 February, 2009.
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