US extends advanced screening by 12 months

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The Air Forwarders Association (AfA) has welcomed a decision to extend the US government’s Air Cargo Advance Screening programme for a further year.

The Washington-based organisation joined with other bodies including the Express Delivery and Logistics Association and The International Air Cargo Association to pen a joint letter to US Customs and Border Control Protection (CBP), expressing a range of concerns surrounding the initiative.

Under the programme, which has involved a sample group of freight companies, air cargo is scanned ahead of arrival in the US using an automated system designed to deliver a greater level of transport security.

However, since the screening scheme was introduced in response to heightened post September 11 security threats as a pilot from two years ago, fears have remained over the potential impact on major air freight operators. Speaking to Air Cargo Week, Brandon Fried, chief executive of the AfA, welcomed the further extension of the pilot. However, he believes that it was vital that the next twelve months was used effectively to plan a coherent strategy.

He says: “We are elated at the decision to extend the screening programme, which has happened as a number of stakeholders have got together to put our concerns together to the CBP. One of our biggest issues was that only about nine air forwarders had actually been involved in the study when there are about 4,300 companies. You are not going to get the empirical data that is needed without a greater number of those carriers being involved.”

Central to their concerns had been the fact that less than 10 air forwarding companies had so far been directly involved in the study. Many observers have highlighted the fact that the level of engagement needed to be far higher to produce accurate data.

Other core issues put to the CPB included requesting clarification on the terms and conditions under which penalties would apply for freight companies that failed to meet agreed standards on screening processes.

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