Industry Debates Cargo Security Responsibilities

After last year’s discovery of explosive packages at a UPS aircraft location and FedEx Express facility, the international air transport community has hotly debated the best way to deal with threats. While airline reps say there is a need for certified detection systems capable of scanning entire pallets and outsize items, others say there are already adequate systems in place. However, one thing everyone agrees on is that the best way to deal with a threat is at the planning stage.

According to a recent article by Niall O’Keeffe, there is still no accepted international standard in place, which is complicated due to differing country requirements.

“What do we need to do now? If we now need to invest in technology or in screening equipment, we want to ensure that we can use that equipment for at least a useful period of time,” said Bernhard Semling, vice president of sales at global technology company Smiths Detection, as quoted by

O’Keeffe pointed out that any imposed standards would need to acknowledge the air cargo business model’s reliance on timeliness and focus on the three main levels of detection used by air cargo security: X-ray, trace, and computed tomography-based explosive detection systems.

At the November 2011 World Cargo Symposium, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) argued that responsibility for air cargo security must be shared “more widely across supply chains.” For instance, Websites that ship packages for individuals by air should ensure safe consignments.

“We must resist the knee-jerk call for 100% cargo screening,” said IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani, in O’Keeffe’s article. “Air cargo security must be based on a combination of three measures — supply chain security, scanning technology, and better use of e-freight data.”

For more information about cargo safety and the need for international standards, read the full article: