Air cargo industry fears U.S. move to 100-percent inspections
Senior industry executives and advisors attending the Air Cargo Forum in Bilbao Wednesday expressed concerns about a potential future requirement of 100-percent screening or inspection by U.S. authorities.
“Congress talks about 100-percent inspection of cargo” but it is not clear what the result of the discussions will be, said Gilbert Lee Sandler, partner of trade advisor Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg.
If 100-percent physical inspection of cargo was required by law, it would have “an astronomical” cost for the industry, he noted.
He cited the underfunded federal requirement from airlines to screen inland baggage with explosion detection systems as a precedent. This law costs the industry $4 billion a year to comply, but Congress allocated only $250 million or 1/16 of the cost, he said.
David Brooks, president of the air cargo division of American Airlines, said Congress' 9/11 commission report has focused on a discussion of 100-percent screening of cargoes, including inspection of paperwork, rather than 100-percent physical inspection.
However, he said lawmakers are keen to implement tighter inspection requirements for cargoes carried in passenger airplanes because they see no alternative.
He said his company has given lawmakers tours of American Airlines’ cargo facilities to show them the scale of the operations and sensitive aspects like lifesaving shipments and the carriage of money.
“TSA is now focusing on cargo initiatives,” Sandler said, referring to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.
Brooks admitted the industry has not spoken with one voice to the U.S. authorities, but should now call for the formulation of a cargo security strategy.