Air cargo securityCoping with tough air-cargo inspection requirements

Published 14 January 2011

It has been four months since TSA began to implement the 100 percent air cargo screening requirement; two industries in particular faced added difficulties: agriculture, which relies on air transport to ship highly perishable, high value-added crops such as cherries, strawberries, asparagus, and more to overseas markets; and the art world: even the faint possibility of an airline inspector with a screwdriver uncrating a Calder sculpture or an early Renaissance tempera painting is enough to keep many in the art world awake at night

It has been four months since the TSA announced the implementation of the 100 percent air cargo screening requirement.

The piece-by-piece screening of cargo originating in the United States on passenger aircraft have had and will continue to have serious ramifications for certain industries that rely on aircraft transportation. Two industries that are quietly yet diligently working under the new guidelines enacted by the TSA are the California agricultural exporters and private art handlers.

Even after the jetliner bombings in the 1970s and the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland — but, for some, even after the 9/11 attacks made counterterrorism measures of paramount priority — the added layers of security were seen as more of a threat to the economy than a legitimate practice in security.

Keith Kenneally, president of San Francisco-based freight forwarder Jet Pro Inc., spoke of the adverse effects of these mandates: “TSA regulations require specific screening procedures, training, testing and expensive equipment,” he said. “Shipping costs have increased dramatically to offset the handling cost.” Jet Pro uses electromagnetic inspection scanners that prevent the ionizing radiation caused by X-ray technology. They ship greens, bagged salads, herbs, mushrooms, stone fruit, and berries to Hawaii and Puerto Rico from the United States by air.

According to the TSA, more than 900 Certified Cargo Screening Programs (CCSP) have been certified to screen air cargo at a “minimal cost” ever since its establishment last year. These facilities must be approved by TSA and adhere to security standards that involve physical access controls, personnel security, screening of prospective employees, and contractors, as well as establishing a secure chain of custody from the screening facility to the aircraft.

Most businesses that rely on overseas transport have the option of using sea-carriers to transport their cargo to major ports, but the business of agriculture in the United States, which is almost twice as reliant on overseas markets as the rest of the economy, has very specific needs when delivering their highly perishable, high value-added crops such as cherries, strawberries, asparagus, and more. California, which delivers products to more than 156 countries, accounts for 90 percent of the U.S. strawberry, grape, processed tomato, plum, and lemon exports in 2007.

Jock O’Connell, international trade adviser to Beacon Economics, a macroeconomic research and analysis firm, published a work titled “The Role of Air Cargo in California’s Agricultural Export Trade: A 2007 Update,” which focuses on data gathered from