New EU air cargo security rules leave existing security loopholes open for another two years

Loopholes in the EU security rules governing air cargo flying in passenger aircraft could remain another two years despite the introduction of revised rules intended to tighten security and close the loopholes, Shippers Voice has learned.

An expert source working close to the issue believes many European member states are not ready to provide independent validation programmes for shippers in time for the implementation deadline this April, so are allowing the existing  somewhat haphazard validation system to run for a further 24 months.

This means that the desired effect of bringing all EU member states into line with the stricter regulations regarding known shippers/consignors that already exist in some countries such as the UK requiring shippers to be audited and validated by authorised independent inspectors will not happen until April 2012, says Andrew Traill, Managing Partner of Shippers Voice.

This situation will not be well received by the travelling public or those shippers that are complying with the stricter security programme in full, said Dr Traill. At the moment, to become a known consignor, the current rules in many parts of Europe are surprisingly tame: a shipper need only provide an annual security declaration to a minimum of one Regulated Agent i.e. an agent that has been authorised to receive freight from a known consignor, and then to maintain the security of the freight while in their charge.

The known consignor must be identified to the appropriate administration responsible for air cargo security in each member state and recorded on a list. The Regulated Agent should satisfy itself that the known consignor is applying appropriate security to the air freight before handing it over to them.

Dr Traill explains: The problem with this approach has been whether Regulated Agents properly assess their customers security measures before qualifying them to be known consignors.

This issue was recognised by some EU member states, such as the UK and Ireland, a number of years ago, so they introduced rules requiring shippers to be audited and validated by authorised independent inspectors. The purpose of the new EU rules was to bring everyone else into this more regulated system by April 2010.

However, from what Shippers Voice has learnt, it appears that, as the new air cargo regulations (EC 300/2008 and EC 272/2009) are currently worded, all EU known consignors, who have been recognised by (valid) Regulated Agents in their member states prior to April 2010, will be able to continue enjoying known consignor status (assuming they continue to provide annual statements) for a further 24 months after the new regulations go into effect.

Although security will be no worse than at present, it will be disappointing to many not least the European Commission, if it takes another two years before one can say with any confidence that all freight has been adequately secured and safeguarded, says Dr Traill.

The source believes that authorities in certain EU member states are interpreting the rules in the way described because they are not able yet to introduce a system of independent verification. Dr Traill says: Perhaps this is a resource issue or maybe a reluctance to implement the programme; but what ever the reason, it means all consignors that are registered with the authorities in these member states will be exempt from having to become independently validated known consignors until April 2012.
Not only does this have security implications, it may also disadvantage shippers who do take the extra steps to be independently verified, when others may be able to wait until April 2012 to do it.

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