Tough screening regulations applying to air cargo being flown into the European Union will be enforced from July 1, but with just two weeks to go the industry has little idea which carriers, airports and forwarders have met the security requirements.
“The challenge that we have is from the EU. We have been trying to get information from them on who has been validated and who has failed so we can help, but that information is not available,” said Rodrigo Reyes, Asia-Pacific regional manager airport, passenger, cargo and security for the International Air Transport Association.
Reyes was responding to queries raised by delegates at the Federation of Asia-Pacific Air Cargo Associations (FAPAA) executive council meeting in Hong Kong today.
At issue are EU regulations that require carriers flying cargo and mail into Europe to be designated as an “Air Cargo or Mail Carrier operating into the EU from a Third Country Airport” (ACC3). From July 1, the EU regulations state that ACC3s must be in possession of security verifications of their cargo and mail operations at the relevant non-EU airports. This verification activity must be undertaken by an independent validator, who must be certified by an EU regulator.
“As much as we would like to engage the carriers, they keep telling us ‘we are ready.’ I guess they know the consequences of not being ready, but we are trying hard to get this across to all the stake holders out there,” Reyes said.
Paul Tsui, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Freight Forwarding and Logistics, agreed that no one knows who is compliant with ACC3. “No information on that is available from the EU,” he said.
But as the July 1 deadline looms there are signs that the EU will take a softer stance on those airlines that have not been validated as ACC3 compliant. Tsui said the EU has agreed that airlines and airports with valid reasons for not obtaining validation would be given six months to comply.
“The EU appears to be flexible, but those companies that need to comply will have to put forward a detailed plan on how they plan to achieve compliance. The new arrangement is a road map to that,” he said.
Doug Brittin, secretary general of The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA), said the air cargo industry is working hard to comply with ACC3, but there are significant challenges for all parties to meet the July 1 deadline.
“We recognize the need for everyone to multiply their efforts, but we also welcome the growing acceptance by regulators that a proportionate and pragmatic approach may be required,” he said. “The overall picture, while far from complete, continues to improve.”
Many forwarder associations, especially those that will need to use Asian airports to transit through on the way to Europe, remain concerned about the ACC3 regulations. In Oceania, both Australia and New Zealand fall into that “far-flung” category.
“Our concern is that our Australian cargo, and that from New Zealand, must generally go via an Asian airport,” said Brian Lovell, CEO of the Australian Federation of International Forwarders.
“Our options will become limited if any of the hubs in Asia fail to be accredited by July 1. If we ship our screened cargo via an airport that has not been accredited, we will have a problem. We will lose out, and so will any of those countries that don’t have direct access to Europe,” he said.
The EU issued legislation to tighten air freight security rules in response to bombs hidden in printer cartridges shipped by air to the US in 2010. It classifies all countries into green (with no ACC3 requirement), white (requiring ACC3 compliance) and red (requiring additional security measures). The information is confidential, although it is known to the airlines, but if cargo from a green country goes via a red country, that cargo is no longer regarded as “clean” by the EU and will be refused entry.