Recent changes to aviation security are shaping up as a significant challenge to the airfreight industry in Australia.
The federal government has introduced measures that, among other things, require air cargo to be 'security cleared' before it can be loaded on to an aircraft.
From March 10, regulatory changes aimed at improving supply chain security for air cargo were instituted that directly affect the nation's regulated air cargo agents.
Businesses that 'security clear', handle or make arrangements for the transport of international and domestic air cargo that has been 'security cleared' must now become RACAs under the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004.
They include couriers, freight forwarders and cargo agents, cargo terminal operators at airports, express post services such Australian Air Express and FedEx; regular international postal services and truck drivers who transport air cargo between terminals.
Operators such as Toll Air Services were quick off the mark, warning that they would accept air export cargo only if it was: lodged by a RACA; accompanied by a signed, valid security declaration and lodged by a person able to produce valid ID "confirming that this person is a RACA, acting on behalf of the RACA who has 'prepared the cargo for clearance'."
RACAs are now responsible for:
- developing and implementing transport security plans based on thorough risk assessments of their operations;
- security checking and protecting the security of all cargo until it leaves their possession;
- providing their employees with skills-based security training.
Transport security plans must detail how industry participants will manage security for their operations and protect their people, assets and infrastructure.
"The department, through the Office of Transport Security, is responsible for administering regulations established under the ATSA and consults with the Australian aviation industry and with overseas regulatory bodies," a government spokeswoman said.
"The security of aviation in Australia, including air cargo, is a responsibility shared by government and industry.
"Industry participants responsible for security include airline operators, airport operators and RACAs."
The RACA scheme was established in 1996 to meet international requirements in relation to the security of air cargo as determined by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
The government insists it is "working in partnership with industry to implement these measures and is mindful of any imposts.
"The Department of Transport works with other federal departments and industry in a range of consultative forums to further strengthen air cargo security."
The federal government announced a further A$48m (US$39.6m), on top of A$38m in 2005, in the 2006 2007 Budget for additional air cargo security measures including:
- introduction of explosive trace detection equipment in cargo terminals handling domestic cargo at the major Australian airports;
- trials to evaluate the use of X-ray units at cargo terminals and freight forwarding facilities;
- customs to increase export cargo inspection through deployment of additional mobile X-ray units and firearms and explosive detection dog teams;
- requirement for earlier reporting of export air cargo to customs to enable more extensive intelligence profiling approved;
- Customs Act to be amended to strengthen provisions in relation to freight depot and warehouse licensing regime.