IATA seeks to accelerate Secure Freight
Nearly 50 million tonnes of cargo are transported by air each year, according to the International Air Transport Association. In dollar terms, this represents US$5.3 trillion of business which accounts for about 35% of the value of goods traded internationally.
“Much of the modern world relies on the contribution air cargo makes to support global supply chains,” IATA director general and chief executive officer Tony Tyler told attendees at IATA’s Secure Freight Forum held in Geneva, Switzerland, in February.
Based on those figures, the importance of air cargo to the world economy cannot be ignored, but the major task that faces the air cargo industry is to do so securely, safely and efficiently.
The security of air cargo has been in the spotlight ever since the 2010 printer cartridge plot when two explosive devices were found in airfreight shipments originating in Yemen. The devices, which were found in a UPS freighter at East Midlands International Airport in the UK and at a FedEx facility in Dubai, were believed to be designed to detonate in-flight. That incident has been dubbed air cargo’s 9/11 in terms of its impact on security processes.
“Governments and industry reacted prudently. And the industry adapted to the new challenges, but we cannot be complacent. The supply chains that we support will quickly disintegrate if we cannot keep shipments secure and safe from terrorist threats,” warns Tyler.
If regulators and governments do not have confidence in the security of air freight, then bureaucracy will increase and shipping times will become longer, notes Tyler. “This will make our business less efficient, less competitive, dampen innovation and ultimately raise costs to consumers,” he says. “The stakes are high. We must get air cargo security right,” stresses Tyler.
IATA’s solution is Secure Freight which aims to promote global air cargo supply chain standards worldwide with the aim of delivering safe, secure and efficient air cargo operations. It is aligned with the global development of best practice, as recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
Tyler says Secure Freight, which was introduced four years ago, is not a “cookie-cutter approach” but is tailored to each country. IATA helps to develop the solutions and implement them. Eight Secure Freight pilot schemes are currently running – in Malaysia, Kenya, Mexico, Chile, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Bahrain.
“Secure Freight has a substantial impact,” according to Tyler, firstly, creating value for governments and airlines. An IATA-commissioned study conducted by LEK Consulting on Malaysia’s Secure Freight implementation, for example, revealed “startling” results, says Tyler. In Malaysia, benefits from the full national implementation of the programme are estimated to be an annual profit increase of between US$350-$600 million to companies in the country. Over five years that means a benefit of US$1-2 billion, he notes.
“The question now is how to move from pilot schemes to making it a critical component in securing the global cargo network,” says Tyler. IATA believes in order to move Secure Freight forward, regulators and industry need to work even more closely together, with all stakeholders in the supply chain required to find solutions.
Furthermore, co-operation and alignment between industry and government must be turned into further progress on harmonisation and convergence. ICAO needs to remain as the focal point for these discussions, he adds.
Industry and governments must also think and act globally – “supporting each other makes us all stronger and more secure”, he says. Tyler points to a good example of this being Transport Canada’s assistance to the Mexican authorities with aviation security initiatives.
“Finally, we need to be prepared for the long-haul,” says Tyler, recognising that “this is no overnight fix”. Aviation security is a long-term commitment that requires close co-operation between regulators and industry. “Our challenge is to build momentum for the development of harmonised and effective cargo security regimes. Secure Freight can play an important part in this with the development of its network and the implementation and sharing of best practices with common standards for both industry and regulators,” says Tyler.
Recognising the need for more effective and sustainable security, ICAO brought together more than 700 ministers and senior security officials representing 132 countries and 23 international organisations at a high-level conference on aviation security in Montreal last September.
The conference endorsed a number of strategies and action based on international co-operation, improved information sharing and proactive approaches. It agreed on the transition to a risk-based, collaborative global framework and to establish processes for identifying and handling high-risk air cargo and protecting supply chains. They also agreed to implement tighter measures to address potential threats posed by airport, airline and cargo sector personnel. Delegates also endorsed a blueprint for monitoring States’ compliance with security provisions through ICAO security audits and called on states to assist those in need. Conference delegates called on ICAO to convene a dedicated aviation security technology symposium in 2014.
“Through improved collaboration, we are far better prepared to anticipate, detect and counter the multiple evolving threats posed by modern terrorism,” says Raymond Benjamin, ICAO secretary general. He adds: “Equally important, by sharing data and best practices more comprehensively and leveraging the latest technological innovations, we can minimise the adverse consequences of security on the air transport industry” – Emma Kelly.