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Air cargo security program aims to improve safety, but at what price?

In the wake of September 11, 2001, countries around the world have aimed to improve air cargo safety measures in order to prevent terrorist attacks and keep their populations safe. On May 24, at airports across the country, six federal ministers unveiled the Air Cargo Security Program, a $95.7-million investment that will be phased in over the next five years.


July 14, 2010
By Bryan Smith

The announcement of the program was led by Transport Minister John
Baird at Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport, and also
included Public Safety Minister Vic Toews in Winnipeg, Defence Minister
Peter MacKay in Halifax, Heritage Minister James Moore in Vancouver,
Environment Minister Jim Prentice in Calgary, and Natural Resources
Minister Christian Paradis in Montreal. The program builds on the
original air cargo plan unveiled by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in
2006, and it aims to protect Canadians while helping exporters continue
to move cargo in a timely and efficient way.

“While regulated screening has been in place for a number of years,
under the enhancements to the Air Cargo Security Program announced in
May 2010, there will be ”˜smarter’ and more effective screening of
cargo,” says Maryse Durette, senior adviser of media relations at
Transport Canada.

“Under the new program, shippers will be required to use specific,
approved screening methods and processes depending on the
origin/packaging/contents of the cargo.”

There are four significant goals that the program will enforce. These
include all cargo shippers, freight forwarders and air carriers being
responsible for ensuring that the screening of all cargo is completed
and verified; the installation of newer and more effective technologies
to be used during the screening process; all companies taking part in
the cargo screenings being subject to security checks; and ensuring
that the cargo screening is compatible with other trading partners.

“The initial phase of the program requirements have been implemented
with the full support of the air cargo industry,” says Durette.

“While the enhances program requirements are being phased in, the
stricter requirements already apply to a significant portion of the
higher risk cargo carried on Canadian passenger aircraft.”


The program itself is being met with some concern from air cargo
shipping companies and employees. While it’s clear that the program
will result in better security and safety measures, the level of
efficiency remains uncertain.
“We certainly have some concerns in regards to the new regulations,”
says Michael Soberal, loss prevention/corporate security manager at DHL
Express Canada Ltd.

“We all support the tightening of all cargo screenings, but the lack of
understanding that Transport Canada seems to have for our industry,
along with their failure to provide the compensation and monetary
assistance that will be required to meet these new regulations, is
causing some concern.”

The lack of funding for the enhanced security requirements could result
in shipping companies having to pay millions of dollars in order to
meet the new standards set forth by the program. Soberal points out
that when similar programs were implemented in the United States and Europe,
shipping companies were given the necessary funding to upgrade their
security measures. In Canada, however, the bill for these upgrades is
being entirely paid by the companies.

“In terms of what will change for air cargo operators, all air cargo
operators will be required to use specific, approved screening methods
and processes,” says Durette.

“The impact will depend on the business model chosen by the air cargo
operators as they adapt their processes and make the necessary
investments to meet the enhanced security requirements.”

Soberal maintains that while the program is positive from a security
standpoint, shipping companies may be the ones feeling the negatives.

“We agree with the common approach to the collaboration with the
security plan, but we’re opposed to the way it’s being implemented and
rolled out,” says Soberal.

“Further consultation must take place within the industry, and a little
bit more time has to be given in order for these new regulations to
have a true impact on the security of the industry.”