American Shipper

Release the hounds!

Release the hounds!

      The Transportation Security Administration is considering allowing companies that self-inspect air cargo bound for passenger aircraft to use canine teams as a method of conducting the checks, according to Douglas J. Brittin, the agency's air cargo manager.

      The TSA has 37 canine teams trained for explosives detection and dedicated to searching air cargo areas of airports. It is adding another 48 teams and uses dogs throughout airports to search passenger areas. The dogs are very effective and the TSA considers them another form of technology like X-ray, explosives detection or explosives trace detection machines.

      But they are also expensive ' it costs the agency about $100,000 per year for a handler and dog ' and the dogs can only work three or four hours a day before their sense of smell deteriorates.

      Canines are the only method that does not require pallets to be disassembled.

      Now the agency is evaluating whether companies in the Certified Cargo Screening Program should have the same capability. Under CCSP, firms further up the supply chain do inspections instead of relying on the airlines. The program was set up to implement the law requiring half of cargo pieces on passenger planes be screened by Feb. 1 and all cargo pieces be screened by August 2010. The incentive for shippers and logistics providers to do the inspections is that they can avoid inspection delays at the airport, maintain the integrity of their shipments and still tender consolidated loads.

      The TSA has had one request from a shipper and another from a private security firm that operates dogs to use canine teams as an approved screening method, Brittin said at the International Compliance Professionals Association conference in Anaheim, Calif., on March 10.

      Brittin cautioned that any decision on whether to approve canines for the private sector screening is still a long way in the future.

      The International Air Cargo Association, Air Transport Association and Airforwarders Association recommended that the Department of Homeland Security quickly expand the use of explosives-detection canine teams to screen large air cargo consolidations and direct more funding to its in-house canine cargo screening program to help achieve the screen-all mandate.