U.S., EC Align on Cargo Security Rules

 - June 4, 2012, 12:40 PM
The transatlantic agreement on cargo security measures ‘will have a major business impact,’ said Estonian politician Siim Kallas, European Commission vice president for transport. (Photo: European Commission)

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the European Commission agreed on June 1 to recognize each other’s air cargo security regimes in what they described as an historic accord.

As a result of the mutual recognition agreement, industry can follow a single set of security rules in moving air cargo through the 27 member states of the European Union, the U.S. and Switzerland, the parties said. The agreement eliminates duplication of procedures and will save “several tens of millions of euros per year” for European shippers, according to the EC. “We are getting rid of duplication of security controls, while preserving high levels of security,” said Siim Kallas, EC vice president for transport. “This is a big step forward and will have a major business impact.”

John Pistole, TSA administrator, noted that the parties’ commitment to share information will further strengthen security. “This agreement with the EU and Switzerland will ease the burden on industry and allow for the free movement of goods and commerce between our nations,” he said.

Shippers transport more than one million tons of cargo by air between the EU and the U.S. each year, the parties said. The value of goods sent from the EU to the U.S. amounts to €107 billion ($133 million), 27 percent of the value of all goods exported by air from the EU. Costs attributed to security can range from 1 percent to 4 percent of turnover, depending on the carrier’s profile, the EC said. Duplicate security measures for transatlantic freight ccount for up to one-fifth of that amount.

The U.S. previously required that cargo screening take place at the last point of departure before arriving in the country; for example, U.S.-bound cargo screened in Budapest but transferring in Frankfurt had to undergo rescreening in Frankfurt. After a foiled attempt by al-Qaeda terrorists in Yemen to send explosives contained in printer cartridges to the U.S. via Dubai and the UK in October 2010, the EU adopted new rules requiring additional security controls at the source country, before cargo arrives in Europe. On May 31, the U.S. and Canada also agreed on mutual recognition of air cargo security measures, including screening of cargo shipped on passenger aircraft at the point of origin.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the agreement represents the culmination of a seven-year effort by regulators and industry stakeholders to align air cargo security measures. “The U.S.-EU Cargo Security Agreement marks a major step forward in one of the most important air cargo markets,” said Tony Tyler, IATA director general and CEO. “We hope that this agreement is the cornerstone for further alignment, especially for passenger security.”