At the start of the 25th International Air Cargo Forum & Exhibition in Amsterdam, a topic very much on the minds of attendees is what impact the Yemen bomb plot will have on the air freight industry. Fortunately the two devices were found before they could do any damage, but many questions have yet to be answered – most significantly how such packages could get so far into the distribution channel before being detected.
Initial reports indicate that the packages moved on passenger flights from Yemen to intermediate points in the UAE. One was discovered there, but a second was loaded onto a freighter (widely reported to be a UPS aircraft) and eventually found at East Midlands Airport en route to the US. Following the discoveries, the US, UK, France, and Germany immediately banned all air freight from Yemen. The real impact of the incident on air
freight is still unknown, as regulators have already begun to take another look at cargo security controls on both passenger and freighter aircraft, and may choose to impose new regulations or tighten existing ones.
Since Aug 2010 the US TSA has required 100% screening of cargo moving on passenger flights within or into the US, but that regulation does not apply to all-cargo flights (and is not yet fully enforced on passenger flights operated into the US from other countries). However, FedEx, UPS, and other cargo airlines are required to have in place TSA-approved security plans. The specific terms of those plans, including the degree to which cargo loaded on freighters is screened, is classified information not released to the public. Likewise, additional security measures imposed by UPS and FedEx themselves are closely guarded by the companies.
Something we’ve always been watching and concerned about would be rules going into place regulating combi aircraft. We keep expecting that they will require the partitions on the upper level between the freight and the passenger part to be reinforced to the level of the cockpit doors.
Regardless of that point , this current incident is going to have a huge impact on freight whether it’s on passenger a/c or on full freighters. Interesting to note, though, is that this recent finding would not have been seen under current (passenger type) screening of the cargo, anyway.