THE US Department of Homeland Security is launching a pilot programme with a couple of express air carriers to collect advance shipment data, in a bid to tighten security on air freighters.
US Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration intend to establish a system for carriers to provide a subset of the air cargo manifest earlier in the process, in order for the data to be analysed by computer so that high-risk shipments could be identified for inspection prior to loading onto a cargo-only aircraft. Under current law, the complete manifest is required to be electronically filed with CBP four hours prior to touchdown in the United States.
A report by the American Shipper said senior officials at both agencies suggested in November that demonstration programmes for collecting advance air shipment data would be launched by the end of the year to help policymakers make informed decisions about new security rules.
A second trial programme involving freight forwarders and their air transport providers is anticipated to commence in early January, according to comments made by Douglas Brittin, TSA's general manager for air cargo, during a global supply chain competitiveness forum at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington.
The tests are intended "to determine how fast we can get information, what those information sets may look like, and how quickly we can turn that around," he was quoted as saying. The last point refers to procedures and communication systems that must be established for notifying carriers to hold a suspicious package and how it will be inspected by local authorities, the report said.
Mr Brittin said the pilot programmes would be evaluated in 30-day increments until enough lessons are learned about how to obtain such advance data on a regular basis without slowing down time-sensitive air cargo shipments.
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