100 percent screening of air cargois perfectly feasible and would be amore sensible system than the currentKnown Shipper system, according toOlivier Bijaoui, president and CEO ofWorldwide Flight Services (WFS), theworld’s largest cargo handler.
Speaking in response to the 10January vote in the US Congress thatmandated screening for all belly cargowithin three years, Bijaoui insists that itwould present WFS, which has handlingoperations at many US airports, withno particular problem.
‘We already check about 40 percentof our cargo in the US, and it couldbe more. In the UK, we screen over50 percent,’ he says. ‘Could we screen 100 percent? Of course. Everything is possible.’
By contrast, he says the currentKnown Shipper regime has manyloopholes.
‘The French system says the shipper must secure the factory, and after pick-up, the truck must be sealed. But a forwarder does not collect cargo from just one factory: they often go to several others on the same journey. So how can the truck be sealed after the first call?’
He also points out that in the UK,if a piece of cargo is left unattendedon the ramp under the aircraft, theauthorities can order the whole aircraftto be unloaded.
‘If that is true in a place where only people with ID have access, how can cargo be secure in a truck on a public road?’
Ultimately, Bijaoui concludes, the airport is the only logical place for cargo to be screened. ‘Shippers and forwarders are already realising that, and we are seeing an increased demand for screening at the airport. In the end, it is better than making a lot of investment in securing factories and warehouses, or checking that shippers are who they say they are.’
He predicts that if the Congressionalbill – which still has to pass the Senate– becomes law, a similar regulation forfreighters will soon follow.
‘The problem used to be that the scanners were too small and not powerful enough. But with scanners now available that can scan whole pallets, it is feasible and I think it has to be done.’