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American Shipper

U.S. publishes roadmap for risk-based air cargo screening

By Eric Kulisch

   U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Friday publicly released its strategic plan for securing air cargo by screening advanced data from carriers and forwarders. 
   A pilot program quickly initiated by the agency in conjunction with express carriers following the October 2010 Yemen printer-bomb plot, has pre-cleared 14 million transactions using shipment-related data to assess for anomalies prior to loading on a plane, Acting Deputy Commissioner Thomas Winkowski said two weeks ago at an airfreight industry conference in Miami.  
   Several freight forwarders, heavy freight airlines and passenger airlines are in line to soon start testing advance screening methods adapted for their segment of the air cargo market. CBP plans to use the test results to develop a mandatory regime for screening air cargo tailored to each industry sector.
   The information is being used to target suspicious shipments for inspection prior to departure and avoid shipment delays for shippers the U.S. government considers trustworthy as part of a risk-based strategy. The primary enhancement involves separating shipment data from the rest of the manifest so the information available early in a transaction can be analyzed, while carriers can submit data about the flight consistent with existing post-departure timelines. 
   Officials point to the program as the new model of industry collaboration in which Customs solicits the private sector’s help in designing new policies and regulations from the ground up rather than simply seeking input after the government has largely crafted its approach. 
    “The Air Cargo Advanced Screening pilot ‘is a game changer,'” Winkowski said, according to a summary of his appearance on the CBP Website. In the old days, we would have called you [industry leaders] into the office and told you how things would be done. But that model no longer works. Instead, ACAS was co-created by all of us working in collaboration to look at the current system and figuring how to use the information we already collect to align security and trade targets.”
   According to the ACAS strategic plan, CBP and the Transportation Security Administration intend to fully expand the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism into the air cargo arena, granting benefits to trusted shippers. In the past, C-TPAT nominally applied to air cargo too, but focused on the marine and land environments for reasons having to do with resources and jurisdictional limitations. 
   The plan is short on details, but provides a general roadmap for how CBP and TSA intend to expand the pilot program. 
   For an in-depth analysis, see “ACAS takeoff”  in the April issue of American Shipper.

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