Air Cargo Security Rule Changes

Nov. 1, 2006
Air cargo forwarders to feel biggest impact of TSA changes

One of the more important requirements of The Transportation Security Administration's new air cargo security rule, due to have started taking effect last month, will be felt off airport property.

Regulations for the Indirect Air Carrier, or forwarder, located off-airport present the most dramatic changes. Most significant, perhaps, is the requirement for employees to pass a "security threat assessment."

Who at an IAC is required to have an STA?

The answer depends upon how the cargo is transported. Employees having unescorted access to cargo to be transported on a passenger airliner from the point of acceptance, until it is transferred to the passenger carrier, must pass the STA. For belly cargo destined for a passenger airliner, the STA requirement takes effect at the point of acceptance.

For cargo to be shipped on an all-cargo carrier, the STA requirement takes effect at the point at which the cargo reaches the IAC facility. The rationale for this difference is to prevent a stowaway or hijacker from getting into a cargo container at the loading dock or reception area of the IAC.

Employees who have already passed a criminal background check for access into the secured area of an airport do not need an STA. Similarly, an individual holding a commercial drivers license with a hazardous materials endorsement will meet the STA requirement.

How will the STA's be handled? STA applications must be submitted directly to the TSA. In turn, the TSA will notify the IAC or airline directly of the results of the STA. Appeal procedures are outlined in the regulation. Each STA costs $28.

The owners of IACs also must pass an STA. Specifically, each proprietor, general partner, officer, director and owner of an IAC must pass the STA. Each IAC must identify an individual to serve as its 24-hour security coordinator.

These new requirements for forwarders also state no IAC shall offer cargo to a passenger carrier, or to a cargo carrier with a full all-cargo program, unless it has an approved security program. The new regulations also change the definition of the term Indirect Air Carrier. Previously, the definition of IAC depended upon using the services of a passenger air carrier. Now, the word passenger is removed from the definition so an IAC is defined as an entity that indirectly engages "the services of an air carrier."

The regulation establishes security training requirements for some IAC employees and security knowledge requirements for other IAC employees. Specifically, IAC employees with security-related duties must receive training regarding their specific security responsibilities. Additionally, each IAC employee or agent who accepts, handles, transports or delivers cargo must have specific security training. The training is to be held annually.

Cargo offered for transport on board a passenger airliner must come from a known shipper.

The big change affecting aircraft operators is a new type of security program under 49 CFR 1544.101h.

The so-called "full all-cargo program" must be followed if cargo is carried in an aircraft with a maximum certificated take-off weight of more than 100,309 pounds.

Aircraft operators, both passenger and all-cargo, whose facilities are on the airport, are required to work with airports in the re-designation of their cargo areas as Security Identification Display Areas. Under the new rule, the airport is required to designate a SIDA as any area where cargo is stored after been accepted. An aircraft operator, foreign air carrier, all-cargo carrier or IAC may accept the cargo for transport.

Airports that haven't extended the SIDA will have to work with cargo operators to define the point of acceptance. The point of acceptance then becomes the crucial point at which the on-airport SIDA is created.

Earlier, we saw that it was a crucial point for IACs beyond which STAs were required for cargo intended for passenger aircraft. However, the analogous requirement does not apply to on-airport SIDAs. Any employee working within a SIDA still must pass a criminal background check. The STA is generally an off-airport requirement while the background check remains required for on-airport SIDAs.

An initial concern of many was that this rule would create SIDA's in off-airport facilities. But SIDAs remain on-airport entities.

Employees and agents of United States and non-U.S. air carriers, all-cargo operators and IACs at off-airport facilities are subject to the STA. There is no identification display requirement in this regulatory change.

The Known Shipper Program remains a central foundation of the entire air cargo security program.

The TSA continues the policy that cargo from unknown shippers will not be accepted for transport aboard passenger aircraft and will maintain the centralized database for known shippers.

The definition of an unknown shipper is where the already operating program will change.

The specific security programs for passenger foreign and cargo carriers have been distributed for comment. They contain more specific requirements and enhancements to the existing program. Some of the additional requirements are designated "sensitive security Information" and may not be publicly disclosed. So it is difficult to determine exactly what are some of the more important additions to the Known Shipper program.

Generally, the greatest effect of the new cargo rule will be felt by IACs operating off-airport. The requirement for security threat assesments will have the greatest impac on those forwarders.

For aircraft operators, the biggest change is the designation of the all-cargo air carrier to be now regulated under Part 1544. For airports, the lion's share of the work will be in re-designating airport areas as SIDAs based upon the point of acceptance of cargo.

-- Tom Anthony is project manager for Los Angeles-based DMJM H&N, a consultancy that has worked on security programs at facilities including Las Vegas McCarran International Airport and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. He worked for the Federal Aviation Administration for 22 years and for the Transportation Security Administration for three years.